This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm by Ted Genoways

This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm

The family farm lies at the heart of our national identity, yet its future is in peril. Rick Hammond grew up on a small ranch, and for forty years he has raised cattle and crops on his wife’s fifth-generation homestead in York County, Nebraska, in hopes of passing it on to their four children. But as the handoff nears, their small family farm—and their entire way of life—a...

Title:This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm
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This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm Reviews

  • Roxanne

    This is a Goodreads win review. I may not have enjoyed this book so much when I lived in Palm Springs, CA for 38 years. In the part I lived in we only grew tourists. Down they grow figs, dates, grapefruit and other crops. The reason I really liked this book is because I now live in Kansas and when I have been driving all over the state I have seen cotton, soybeans, wheat , corn, melons, peaches growing. We also have cow farms and raise cattle. When I went to Dodge City the trolley took us to the

    This is a Goodreads win review. I may not have enjoyed this book so much when I lived in Palm Springs, CA for 38 years. In the part I lived in we only grew tourists. Down they grow figs, dates, grapefruit and other crops. The reason I really liked this book is because I now live in Kansas and when I have been driving all over the state I have seen cotton, soybeans, wheat , corn, melons, peaches growing. We also have cow farms and raise cattle. When I went to Dodge City the trolley took us to the countryside and showed where the cattle are raised. We are in the agriculture belt. This book is about a farmer in Nebraska and 4o years he has raised cattle and crops on his wife's fifth generation farm. But his dream of passing the farm down is becoming in danger. They have to fight corporations, pipelines are wanting to be built, the marketplace has a lot of competition , and trade policies are changing. This author follows The Hammonds farm from harvest to harvest seeing how traditional farming operates. I hope the legacy of farming can continue. The book has nice photographs also which a non-farmer could understand this way of life better. We have a 1/2 acre ourselves and we grow crops too but on a smaller scale and we can eat fresh out of the backyard.

  • Anna Marie Jonas

    I have even more respect for the men and women who farm after reading this book. A possible water crisis addressed in the book is troubling, though.

  • Rebecca Foster

    For the Hammonds, a Nebraska farming family, the 2014 harvest season started with a perfect storm of perilous circumstances: a spell of good weather led to nationwide crop overproduction and surpluses, which caused a drop in projected prices; then heavy late-summer rains delayed the harvest. Genoways, whose family roots are in farming, followed Rick Hammond’s family and workers over one critical year, October 2014 to October 2015. He vividly conveys the rhythms of farming and reflects on the his

    For the Hammonds, a Nebraska farming family, the 2014 harvest season started with a perfect storm of perilous circumstances: a spell of good weather led to nationwide crop overproduction and surpluses, which caused a drop in projected prices; then heavy late-summer rains delayed the harvest. Genoways, whose family roots are in farming, followed Rick Hammond’s family and workers over one critical year, October 2014 to October 2015. He vividly conveys the rhythms of farming and reflects on the historical shifts that have brought it to a point of crisis. The book’s niche subject could limit its readership. However, if you enjoy books by Wendell Berry and Michael Pollan, you’re likely to appreciate this. It’s a unique combination of group biography, history, and science and tempers worry with optimism, showing that farming is a threatened yet resilient way of life.

    See my full review at

    . (See also

    on the Keystone XL Pipeline.)

  • Cynthia

    My real rating would probably be a 3.5, but I rounded up for the educational value of the book! As a farmer myself, I could really relate to a lot....the author writes thru/about/of a year spent with a Nebraska farm family, including financial, social, emotional, environmental, & familial issues.....I'd think anyone from a farm could relate to just about every page of this book! The book does an excellent job of education about everyday products/companies/businesses/corporations that all far

    My real rating would probably be a 3.5, but I rounded up for the educational value of the book! As a farmer myself, I could really relate to a lot....the author writes thru/about/of a year spent with a Nebraska farm family, including financial, social, emotional, environmental, & familial issues.....I'd think anyone from a farm could relate to just about every page of this book! The book does an excellent job of education about everyday products/companies/businesses/corporations that all farm families have dealt with....ADM, Monsanto, Cargill, Henry Wallace & Hybrid seed corn companies, Pioneer, Garst, old & new pesticides & herbicides like Dyfonate, Counter, Roundup, Bt, Valley Irrigation equip/other brands too. There's a lot of farm history, & the author brings it all right up to modern technology of satellites/GPS used today. It's all very easily readable, & kept very interesting....so that I read it in 2 days! I'd think anyone interested in the farming lifestyle/culture/community would enjoy this.

  • Jenneffer

    This great book reads as smoothly as literary fiction, yet chronicles a really important subject in non-judgey tone. Ted Genoways has rural farm experience himself, but he doesn't draw solely on that to write this book. I learned some major reasons we grow corn and soybeans commercially today is strongly correlated with federal government public policy, for example. A great read for everyone who likes to eat.

  • David

    Sensitively and well written account of a family of farmers in Nebraska. At the mercy of the weather, futures traders, global trade, agribusiness, this family scrapes by. Genoways, a native of Nebraska himself, provides a lot of good information about the history of farming and the risks ahead. As always, short term interests win out over longer term concerns, like conservation of water and reliance on a monoculture (corn and soybeans). Nebraska, like many Great Plains States, voted overwhelming

    Sensitively and well written account of a family of farmers in Nebraska. At the mercy of the weather, futures traders, global trade, agribusiness, this family scrapes by. Genoways, a native of Nebraska himself, provides a lot of good information about the history of farming and the risks ahead. As always, short term interests win out over longer term concerns, like conservation of water and reliance on a monoculture (corn and soybeans). Nebraska, like many Great Plains States, voted overwhelmingly for Trump who is backing out of global trade agreements that actually help these farmers. Go figure.

  • Becky

    Acclaimed journalist, Genoways, follows a 5th-generation Nebraska corn/soybean/cattle farm family for a year. While farm families will certainly recognize the hard work, complicated decision-making, risk-taking, and dedication it takes to run a successful family farm, this book could be an eye-opener for urban readers.

    The author deftly explains the history of the family farm and how it has changed over the past decades. He examines the many stresses that face today's family farm owners: giant ag

    Acclaimed journalist, Genoways, follows a 5th-generation Nebraska corn/soybean/cattle farm family for a year. While farm families will certainly recognize the hard work, complicated decision-making, risk-taking, and dedication it takes to run a successful family farm, this book could be an eye-opener for urban readers.

    The author deftly explains the history of the family farm and how it has changed over the past decades. He examines the many stresses that face today's family farm owners: giant agribusiness, changing federal policies, GMOs, pesticides/herbicides, climate change, shrinking water supply, an uncertain global marketplace... The family that Genoways followed had an added complication. The plan for the Keystone Pipeline included a section that was to be routed through their farmland.

  • Linda

    I'm a city girl at heart and enjoy my home in a metropolitan area, but I grew up in Montana, have known ranchers, and spent a few days with some of them. My husband is from rural Illinois and his good friend he hunted with as a kid on Rob's family farm lives on his wife's home place now, while a nephew farms the two families' combined acres and the wealthy from Chicago buy up more wooded, hilly acres for their private hunting preserves. So I have some idea of what a hard life farming is, with we

    I'm a city girl at heart and enjoy my home in a metropolitan area, but I grew up in Montana, have known ranchers, and spent a few days with some of them. My husband is from rural Illinois and his good friend he hunted with as a kid on Rob's family farm lives on his wife's home place now, while a nephew farms the two families' combined acres and the wealthy from Chicago buy up more wooded, hilly acres for their private hunting preserves. So I have some idea of what a hard life farming is, with weather being the biggest worry. But I had no idea how market forces and technology have made modern ranchers masters of technology as they try to just keep their heads above foreclosure from year to year. Rick Hammond, ready for retirement, his daughter Meghan and her boyfriend Kyle Galloway are the focus of this family corn, soybean and cattle farm in Nebraska. The author weaves their personal stories and family histories with snippets of his own, with his family's roots in Nebraska's farms. GPS for harvesting on autopilot, wireless monitoring of soil moisture, the intricacy and timing of various hybrid seed strains, the challenges of "organic" farming and the rise of large corporations and genetically modified plants--and just to spice things up, industrial espionage and theft that involve the FBI-- are among some of the challenges that the Hammonds deal with, and why American farms are currently incredibly productive with fewer and fewer people doing the work. And yet there is plenty of hard, physical, exhausting, dangerous work to be done with machinery and animals, just as there was in the past.

  • Tuck

    Clear and succinct explanations of farming on USA , corn and soy beans mostly , using conventional organophosphates and manufactured fertilizer and gmo seed and aquifer water. Author does a great job explaining the water issues and how seed corn is produced and how gmo "works". Interesting highlights too on XL pipeline as it was going right through these folks' farm. Good general interest book on history of farming and modern farming in Nebraska. Has some pictures and bibliography.

  • Douglas Lord

    'Unflinching' isn’t a term often bandied about when discussing farm reportage, but that’s what we have here in this journalistic take on the evolving “family farm” and what it means in contemporary ’Merica. American farms have gone through many ages and stages over the course of hundreds of years, and Genoways accurately captures the near-constant subsistence culture of this difficult business. Today’s family farms, thousands of times larger in scale than those of previous generations, are still

    'Unflinching' isn’t a term often bandied about when discussing farm reportage, but that’s what we have here in this journalistic take on the evolving “family farm” and what it means in contemporary ’Merica. American farms have gone through many ages and stages over the course of hundreds of years, and Genoways accurately captures the near-constant subsistence culture of this difficult business. Today’s family farms, thousands of times larger in scale than those of previous generations, are still mostly only marginally profitable in a seemingly random seasonal cycle. If, as Genoways insightfully reports, this summer’s soybean crop is threatened or messed up by too much rain, farmers “pray for rootworm in Chile, for hail on the open plains of Illinois” and for failure to befall “someone else as careful as you.” The two things that farmers depend upon the most—weather and markets—are the two things that make the “difference between the kind of success that allows you to add equipment and acres and the kind of loss that eventually leads to a farm sale.” Many up-close and personal interviews and conversations lend an authenticity missing from what could easily slip into an examination of the business-only end of farming. Moneyball is one thing, but farmball? VERDICT Even if the work seems simple, Genoways’s fascinating account shows that it’s far from a simple business.

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