Farming… The Most Virtuous Gamble

Tough times never last, Tough people do!

There are few words to describe the feeling you get as you listen to someone explain how they lost everything. It is very difficult to share emotions like pain, fear, and heartache, especially among the toughest breed of them all… the American farmer.

I will confess, being a product of the 90s, I knew very little of the farm crisis. Even coming from a family with strong agricultural roots, it simply wasn’t something that was talked about, but rather one of those dreadful memories that stays tucked away, as was the case for many Iowa farm families.

Farm crisisYesterday evening I attended the premiere of a new Iowa Public Television documentary entitled, “The Farm Crisis.” It is truly one of the best documentaries I have ever seen, and does a magnificent job capturing such a monumental piece of agriculture’s history. As I sat there in the theater watching history unfold before more, I realized that I was surrounded by many of those individuals appearing on the screen sharing their story. I have experienced few things more moving than sitting next to an old weathered man, fighting back tears as he relives the trials and tribulations that his family, neighbors, and community members endured through some of agriculture’s most challenging years.

I would highly encourage anyone and everyone to take the time to watch this amazing documentary, but most importantly, share it with your children. This is more than just a captivating story, it’s a piece of history, and one that is all too often left untold. However, we have a responsibility to learn from the past so that the next generation can help prevent a modern-day Farm Crisis. I have included information about the documentary below including: a summary of the film, an extended video preview, and details about when it will be aired.

About the film…

The Farm Crisis is a 90-minute film produced by Iowa Public Television that examines the economic and personal disasters that afflicted the agriculture sector in the 1980s. Narrated by NBC News reporter Harry Smith, The Farm Crisis examines the tragic circumstances faced by farmers for most of the 1980s, when thousands were forced into bankruptcy, land values dropped by one-third nationally, and sky-high interest rates turned successes into failures seemingly overnight. Original music by Iowa-based recording artist Chad Elliott sets the tone throughout the program.

The program features interviews with policymakers, business owners, economists, and farm families, including Gov. Terry Branstad, Sen. Charles Grassley, Sen. Tom Harkin, former Rep. Jim Leach, the late Mark Pearson, former Sen. Tom Daschle, economist Neil Harl, and recording artist and Farm Aid Founder Willie Nelson.

Beyond the economic story, the program tells of the emotional toll facing those whose livelihoods depended on farming. Some broke under the strain of economic disaster – in some cases, even committing murder or suicide. Communities fractured, friendships ended, and identities were lost. But amid the tragedy, viewers will see stories of hope, as well: men and women who fought loyally to help some families save their farms; activists who rallied for action; and even music legends who got together to raise money to help.

Watch it on Iowa Public Television: Monday, July 1st at 8pm (CT); Friday, July 5th at 11pm (CT); Wednesday, July 10th at 7pm (CT); and Friday, July 19th at 8:30pm (CT).

Extended preview:

Peaceful Politics… Is There Such A Thing?

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

I start this post by posing a question to think about… what ever happened to “peaceful” protest?

One of the fundamental principles we protect here in America is our freedom of speech, which is deeply rooted in our belief of representative government. We pride ourselves in structuring a system that ensures “the people” are heard by those with power. With that mentality we have opened our doors, and our ears, hoping to facilitate new ideas, opinions, and philosophies about how things should be run. However, what was once a venue for civil, educated debate has become nothing more than a severely polarized battleground. Let me give you an example…

Iowa is an agricultural state, and leads the nation in production of many of the staple commodities that consumers depend on around the world. However, there are some within our great state that don’t share my excitement for the continued growth of Iowa agriculture. Just the other day I was sitting in a public meeting of one of our state’s oversight commissions. One would expect such an experience to be long, dry, and somewhat boring, as is typically associated with most governmental dealings. In recent years this has become far from the truth.

About ten minutes into the meeting, I watched a large group obnoxiously file into the room, disrupting an ongoing presentation, and situate themselves amongst the staff and other members of the public. A few more minutes passed, and then it was showtime… the public comment period. One right after another, they marched up to the podium and for the next 45 minutes took turns shouting at the commissioners (some which were personal attacks) for allegedly “allowing factory farms to take over our state and poison our waters.” In addition to the strong-worded speeches, there were also the random (arguably unprofessional) outbursts from the crowd shouting words of encouragement to the remarks being made and the young lady wandering around the room photographing it all. Now you may wonder, was there an agriculture issue on the agenda in which these comments may have been relevant… no. Following the the close of the public comment period, the group quickly filed out, of course not without another verbal jab at the commissioners here and there, and the commission was able to carry on with the rest of their meeting. Now of all the important topics that were covered by the commission that day, you can probably guess what part of that meeting made the mid-day news.

As a member of the agriculture community I realize that there are many controversial issues that surround our industry. However, just because something is controversial doesn’t mean there can’t be room for healthy debate… when it is appropriate. I am a firm supporter of the freedom of speech, but I also am concerned that we have moved away from debating the issues to instead providing a stomping ground for everyone to just air their grievances.

The right answer is not always the one in the biggest, boldest letters, and the winner of a debate is not always the person that shouts their views the loudest. I believe there is and always should be room for peaceful protest, but the real question is… does anyone know what that is anymore?

RELATED POST: Can We Be Political AND Polite?

Hairdos and Hay Bales

Yesterday marked the end of an era here in the Burns-Thompson household… our last school dance, the Senior PROM. Now if you know my family, you know that we’re firm believers in the “go big or go home” philosophy. With that being said, after many long hours on pinterest and months of planning, I am so proud of how our photos turned out. ENJOY!