The dust swirls behind as the combines crawl across the fields gathering the abundant harvest in Minnesota. Those who are in the know say that the yields this year are the greatest that they have ever been. But what is the problem? Just a few years ago, corn sold for over $6 per bushel. Now it rides at just half of that. More bushels make up for the lower price but farming is always a difficult business to make a profit at.
As I think back to farming in the 1970s and 80s when we first moved to Minnesota, all the farming sources that I have consulted indicated that the 1970s were a time of soaring farm income and commodity prices. It was a time of prosperity for farmers. My father sold our farm in Pennsylvania in 1973 and moved us to Minnesota in 1974. I, as a 16 year old, was totally oblivious to the politics and financial dynamics of farming though looking back now, I can see how my father was lured by the booming economy to put his finances on the line in this huge family venture. And of course, about the time that I finally made my escape from the farm in 1986 coincided with the falling land prices, rock bottom crop prices, and high interest rates that led to a nationwide crisis in agriculture in the 80s. From a historical standpoint, my book “If You Leave This Farm” is a story of farming in Minnesota during these turbulent times. Maybe, that was part of the pressure that shaped my father into the controlling patriarch that he became.