Journalist Genoways (The Chain) sheds light on the plight of 21st-century American farmers through the story of one Nebraskan family. For a year beginning in October 2014, he followed soybean, corn, and cattle farmer Rick Hammond through the vicissitudes of unpredictable weather, ever-fluctuating crop prices, and preparations to pass his farm down to his daughter, Meghan, and future son-in-law, Kyle Galloway. Genoways adds historical context to their situation, tracing Nebraskan history from the bloody years of the Civil War when President Lincoln signed the first Homestead Act, which coaxed thousands of settlers onto barren prairie, through agriculture’s rapid industrialization following World War II and secretary of agriculture Earl Butz’s dictate to “Get big or get out” in the early 1970s. Although much of this history has been told before, Genoways’s account is unique for his dogged research and for his mastery in showing how these events have impacted farmers, their families, and the land. As the narrative moves to present day, the Hammonds’ fate collides with climate change, the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer, the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and the diplomancy of the Bush and Obama adminstrations. By following a single family through time, the book captures the complex reality of farmers in America today both in terms of the future of the industry and of their everyday lives. It is an unvarnished portrait striking for both its depth and humanity. (Sept.)
Compelling....This Blessed Earth is a cogent, well-reported examination of the forces putting the family farm at risk.”
Genoways writes of the environmental damage wrought by pesticides and overwatering, the risks of genetically modified seed, and the harm of flooding global grain markets with cheap corn. American farming frequently receives tough criticism on these points. The beauty of
This Blessed Earth is to understand them from a grower’s perspective.
This Blessed Earth is both a concise exploration of the history of the American small farm and a vivid, nuanced portrait of one family’s fight to preserve their legacy and the life they love.
The Blessed Earth is a history book, an economics text, even a soap opera of sorts. If we eat, we should know”.
Insightful and empathetic....In his compelling narrative, journalist Genoways gives the reader a kitchen-table view of the vagaries, complexities and frustrations of modern farming.
Elfrieda Abbe - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
A remarkable portrait of families in far flung fields, completely plugged in to the world.
Tom Ashbrook - WBUR On Point
With genuine honesty and historical awareness...Genoways delivers a close-up look at what farmers face today and their efforts to accomplish their goals.
Everyone who eats in America should read this lyrical and often heartbreaking book about life on a modern American farm. It will change the way you look at what is on your plate.
Ted Genoways brings a lifetime of knowledge to the complex story of modern agriculture. His depth of understanding is evident on every page as he follows the Hammonds through a year on their Nebraska farm, examining the way they are not only at the behest of traditional challenges such as weather and time, but also subject to international trade agreements, worldwide competition, and the challenges of scale. In
This Blessed Earth, Genoways masterfully illustrates the costs and demands of such a life, and beautifully renders the endurance and dignity of those who have chosen it.
Farming, family, and food all come together in this beautifully written story of what it takes to work this blessed earth.
In an impressive and compelling work of literary journalism, Ted Genoways dives deep into the heart of an American farm family, illuminating critical issues troubling our complex food production system. But he also describes in intimate detail the very human struggles of the workbetween husband and wife, parent and child, father-in-law and son-in-lawin one family committed to growing our food and passing the work on to the next generation.
A clear eyed and unsentimental look at how farming has become relentlessly optimized by automation, markets and politics; factors that don’t always take into account the guy who’s actually driving the tractor.
New York Times Book Review
A history book, an economics text, even a soap opera of sorts. If we eat, we should know.
Clear-eyed and unsentimental.… [Genoways] writes with authority.… [and] comes from a long line of Nebraskans himself.
Arlo Crawford - The New York Times Book Review
A real eye-opener. Genoways presents a very Steinbeckian story: Americans struggling heroically against forces outside their control.
Erin Grace - Omaha World-Herald
This Blessed Earth is a sort of universal story of family farmers and all they’re up against in their efforts to take care of the land and make a living from it. It’s also a crash course in the history that brought us to this place of corporate power, shrinking resources, and a changing climate. But it plants seeds of hope as the next generation prepares to inherit the family land and all of the joys and challenges that come with it. This book is an invitation to all who care about family farmerswhich after all is all of us, since we all eat!
It’s not fair to claim that you are concerned about the country’s food system unless you truly understand the millions of unsung conventional family farmers who produce our corn, soybeans, and beef. Genoways portrays just such a family in a book that is factual, rich in history, and filled with characters you will come to know as friends. He writes with an investigative journalist’s mind and a poet’s soul.
This Blessed Earth is a concise look at the history of the American farm and a heartfelt portrait of one family’s struggle to maintain their way of life.
Winner of a National Press Club Award, Genoways explores the fate of American farming today by chronicling the experiences of Rick Hammond, who has been working his wife's fifth-generation homestead in Nebraska for 40 years. But will his children take over the farm, and can small family farms endure in America?
Journalist Genoways (The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food, 2014, etc.) returns to further study farming in America.The author's latest book is quieter and more meditative, as he chronicles his immersion in the seasons of a Nebraska family trying to survive on their family acres. Some of the mood conveyed by the up-close narrative reflects the quietness of desperation, as unpredictable weather, international market fluctuations, the changing practices of seed suppliers, the availability of water for irrigation, and government agricultural supports conspire to create greater-than-usual questions about whether patriarch Rick Hammond, his daughter, Meghan Hammond, and her husband, Kyle Galloway, can pay their bills in rural Nebraska. Genoways is a Nebraskan but did not grow up on a farm. He is a master at portraying the unique qualities of this Midwestern state but a novice about the intricacies of earning a living as a family farmer. Rick, Meghan, and Kyle exhibited remarkable patience schooling the author, allowing him to participate in their activities and record their thoughts over the months. Most of the book focuses on the farming of corn and soybeans, but Genoways also devotes interludes to the very different pursuit of raising beef cattle. The narrative is more or less chronological, following the seasons, but the author occasionally diverges to explore the characters of his protagonists and of farmers in general. For example, Rick can be generous to a fault with fellow farmers yet simultaneously competitive about crop growth—in this zero-sum game, every neighbor who sells higher might mean Rick selling slightly lower. Meghan's back story is especially fascinating, as the author chronicles why she intended to leave farming but ended up pulled back in to the profession. Genoways memorably captures the difficult lives nonindustrial farmers lead in order to feed the world.