My favorite thing to do on a summer morning is to take a walk down my dirt road. Most summer days I sleep in but there are a few when I get up right after sunrise. The air is always moist with the sweet smell of earth, the birds are singing and the cows are milling around the water trough. It’s perfect.
I was raised on a peanut and cattle farm in Northwest Florida, it was a great place to grow up—I was surrounded by row-crop farms and cattle, and the beach was just a short drive away.
Today though, I find myself in a very different place.
Currently, I am on a 3 month adventure in the Bread Basket of the U.S. And though I’m going to miss boiled peanuts this summer—so far it has been totally worth it.
When I first moved to St. Louis, Missouri for my internship I found that agriculture in the South and agriculture in the Midwest were very different. For one, farms here in the Midwest seem MUCH bigger. However, when I compared average acreage on NASS, farms in Missouri and Illinois are only about 100 acres larger than the average farm back home. I guess it has to do with all the flat land and the minimal amounts of trees… the rows just seem to go on and on! I also noticed the negative effect that this very wet season was having on the crop, the soil and the farmer. Too much rain back home is hardly ever a problem, our sandy soil lets the water, and often vital nutrients, leach right out. In fact, back home you often see fields with pivot after pivot to provide extra water to the crop. After discovering these differences I decided to take regular weekend adventures—I was tired of staying in my lovely suburban town—it was time to find some farms and learn more about Midwest agriculture
While several of my adventures have taken place in Missouri, most have led me to the great state of Illinois. (That and the fact I’m trying to visit all 50 states—part of my bucket list) I had the privilege to spend the weekend with an awesome farm family in Central Illinois and learn about their corn and soybean operation. We talked about planting dates, which are much later in the Midwest than in the South, the true meaning to “knee-high by the Fourth of July” and the wind turbines near their farm. Their hospitality and the kindness of those in the town they lived in reminded me of home.
That’s when it hit me: Agriculture may be different everywhere you go, as different as corn harvest in the Midwest and peanut picking time in the Deep South, but it’s the character of the people who are involved in agriculture, the integrity of the farmer who desires to feed a growing world, it’s their passion for the land and it’s resources—that is the common seed.
So when I ‘m feeling a little homesick and missing my morning walks, I just hop in my truck, ignore my GPS’ frantic voice attempting to direct me to a major highway and I just drive—it’s the surest way to discover not only the differences between the agriculture life I grew up with and life in the Midwest but to discover friendly faces working to feed this hungry world.
Jillian is a summer intern within Public Affairs. Raised on a peanut and cattle operation, she developed a passion for the land, livestock and old tractors. She is a senior at Auburn University pursing a degree in Agriculture Communications and a minor in Agronomy and Soils. In her free time she enjoys writing poetry, playing basketball and exploring the rural areas outside of St. Louis.