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

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The family farm lies at the heart of our national identity, and yet its future is in peril. Rick Hammond grew up on a farm, and for forty years he has raised cattle and crops on his wife’s fifth-generation homestead in Nebraska, in hopes of passing it on to their four children. But as the handoff nears, their family farm—and their entire way of life—are under siege on many The family farm lies at the heart of our national identity, and yet its future is in peril. Rick Hammond grew up on a farm, and for forty years he has raised cattle and crops on his wife’s fifth-generation homestead in Nebraska, in hopes of passing it on to their four children. But as the handoff nears, their family farm—and their entire way of life—are under siege on many fronts, from shifting trade policies, to encroaching pipelines, to climate change. Following the Hammonds from harvest to harvest, Ted Genoways explores the rapidly changing world of small, traditional farming operations. He creates a vivid, nuanced portrait of a radical new landscape and one family’s fight to preserve their legacy and the life they love.


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The family farm lies at the heart of our national identity, and yet its future is in peril. Rick Hammond grew up on a farm, and for forty years he has raised cattle and crops on his wife’s fifth-generation homestead in Nebraska, in hopes of passing it on to their four children. But as the handoff nears, their family farm—and their entire way of life—are under siege on many The family farm lies at the heart of our national identity, and yet its future is in peril. Rick Hammond grew up on a farm, and for forty years he has raised cattle and crops on his wife’s fifth-generation homestead in Nebraska, in hopes of passing it on to their four children. But as the handoff nears, their family farm—and their entire way of life—are under siege on many fronts, from shifting trade policies, to encroaching pipelines, to climate change. Following the Hammonds from harvest to harvest, Ted Genoways explores the rapidly changing world of small, traditional farming operations. He creates a vivid, nuanced portrait of a radical new landscape and one family’s fight to preserve their legacy and the life they love.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

    This book wasn't even on my radar until Governor Pete Ricketts of Nebraska (my home and the setting of this book) refused to sign the the proclamation of this book receiving the 2019 One Book One Nebraska book by the Nebraska Library Commission on basis of the author being a "political activist". Of course, for Petey this means "probably a democrat", as there is nothing even remotely political about this book, only factual analysis of the realities of the dying family farm; indeed, the dying of This book wasn't even on my radar until Governor Pete Ricketts of Nebraska (my home and the setting of this book) refused to sign the the proclamation of this book receiving the 2019 One Book One Nebraska book by the Nebraska Library Commission on basis of the author being a "political activist". Of course, for Petey this means "probably a democrat", as there is nothing even remotely political about this book, only factual analysis of the realities of the dying family farm; indeed, the dying of the entire agriculture industry in the United States due to consolidation, impossible risk/reward balance and the hastening effects of climate change. Like many, Petey sticks his head in the sand to ignore the realities of the world and instead of finding sustainable solutions he has hastened along the death of the American family farm, and indeed much of western Nebraska. Soon, perhaps as soon as 15 years from now, most everything west of Grand Island will be unfarmable and will be abandoned to nature, leaving broken dreams and financial ruin on the little guys like the Hammond family while those like Ricketts himself rake in the profits of the ruin.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    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 BookBrowse. (See also my article on the Keystone XL Pipeline.)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Emily Goenner

    This book was selected as a group read by my university and, since I'm married to a farmer, I was eager to read it. I made it through the intro and part of the first chapter. This book is so overwritten; the flowery language meant to conjure images and evoke feelings feels like its trying so hard, too hard, and takes so much time, I just couldn't make it any further. Disappointing, since this topic is so close to my heart.

  4. 5 out of 5

    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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    This book is the 2019 selection for both All Iowa Reads and One Book One Nebraska. I grew up in a rural area of northwest Missouri but not on a farm and I know next to nothing about farming. It was a really interesting read. I had no idea that tractors have all this technology measuring moisture in the soil and such. This is not a political book. But it came onto my radar when I read a blog posting by the book’s author. Apparently it is customary for the governor of Nebraska to sign a proclamati This book is the 2019 selection for both All Iowa Reads and One Book One Nebraska. I grew up in a rural area of northwest Missouri but not on a farm and I know next to nothing about farming. It was a really interesting read. I had no idea that tractors have all this technology measuring moisture in the soil and such. This is not a political book. But it came onto my radar when I read a blog posting by the book’s author. Apparently it is customary for the governor of Nebraska to sign a proclamation at the beginning of the year to honor that year’s book selection for One Book One Nebraska. Pete Ricketts refused to do so, claiming that the author was a “political activist” and that the book was divisive...while openly admitting that HE DIDN’T READ THE BOOK!! What an ass! The author lives in Nebraska and his family goes back several generations in the state so he’s well qualified to cover this topic. Apparently the governor’s objection comes from a tiny portion of the book discussing the Keystone XL pipeline. The farm family in the book opposed it because it was originally intended to run through their cropland. They also had concerns about the impact on the Ogallala Aquifer, their source of water for crop irrigation and watering cattle. The family immediately took a financial hit for their opposition when a neighbor, from whom they had rented hundreds of acres for many years, cancelled their long-standing agreement, making it clear in a letter that he was doing so as a result of the family’s opposition to the pipeline. But anyway, it’s not a political book. I think it should be of interest to anyone interested in American agriculture...so anyone who likes to eat!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Genoways, an award winning author & journalist, does exactly what the book title states in this well-written story, sets down a year in the life of an American family farm. The Hammond family history on their farm also contrasts farming today with farming of yesteryear. The book enlightens people like me, having no farm background, about concerns such as water and irrigation management and raising crops, and cattle. Chosen the 2019 One Book One Nebraska book by the Nebraska Library Commission, i Genoways, an award winning author & journalist, does exactly what the book title states in this well-written story, sets down a year in the life of an American family farm. The Hammond family history on their farm also contrasts farming today with farming of yesteryear. The book enlightens people like me, having no farm background, about concerns such as water and irrigation management and raising crops, and cattle. Chosen the 2019 One Book One Nebraska book by the Nebraska Library Commission, it’s a shame that Nebraka’s current governor (Petey Ricketts) has refused to read the book or recognize the honor awarded the book. It would be a worthwhile discussion starter. I hope that I have opportunities to listen to some Nebraskans on where their opinions agree or disagree with that of the Hammond family, AFTER they read the book. For me, this was an enlightening story.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Every Nebraskan and every farmer should read this book. The governor of Nebraska has refused to sign the One Nebraska proclamation over this book, but that ignores the usefulness of this book in understanding the current farm crisis. There is a lot of background and history most people probably do not know. This account could be a valuable starting place for discussion. People who eat, and want to be able to eat in the future, should read this to gain understanding of what we are up against.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I loved this book. Honestly, this is the story I had tried to write as a senior in college for my comps (senior thesis) paper. Although I did not receive a "distinction" award, this book deserves one. It is a work of regional history, agricultural history, and sociology through participant observation. It tells the story that most of us never hear, about the people who grow most of the agricultural commodities produced and sold in the U.S. It's the story of "flyover country." Literally, these ar I loved this book. Honestly, this is the story I had tried to write as a senior in college for my comps (senior thesis) paper. Although I did not receive a "distinction" award, this book deserves one. It is a work of regional history, agricultural history, and sociology through participant observation. It tells the story that most of us never hear, about the people who grow most of the agricultural commodities produced and sold in the U.S. It's the story of "flyover country." Literally, these are the farms we see as we peer out the airplane windows on our bicoastal journeys and see an endless quilt of green circles, the product of center-pivot irrigation. To most of us, these formations recollect alien-made crop circles communicating the impending invasion of Earth, but to 2% of Americans in the know (only about 2% of Americans are actively engaged in farming), it looks like home. As an advocate for sustainable and regenerative agriculture, I have often found myself thinking, impetuously, "why don't farmers just do things differently?" Every year, American farmers grow more corn and beans, and every year the growing glut of the same depresses prices, diminishing returns to the farmers both in the U.S. and in the countries that have to compete with the artificially low prices of American grain exported abroad. Meanwhile, demand for organic grain and dairy has dramatically outstripped supply, forcing American companies to buy from foreign producers at prices nearly quadruple what conventional commodities fetch on the market. It seems obvious to me that American farmers are leaving money on the table as they obstinately refuse to change. But reading this book helped me understand why it's not that simple. The way we farm today is the end result of myriad technological innovations and policy changes that began over one hundred years ago and has culminated in a system that is incredibly complex both in terms of how commodities are produced and in terms of the political and economic environment in which farmers operate. From this book, I got the sense that if you pull one thread from this complicated web of growers, seed companies, millers, speculators, markets, inputs-dealers, and policy wonks, the whole thing would collapse into chaos. And all of this complexity has grown up around a Cartesian attempt to control an economic activity that, at its root, is nigh on impossible to control. Farming depends on weather, and despite all our technological advances, weather is something we've yet to control. So, where we can't control weather, we control everything else. Plant and animal genetics, feed ratios, microbes, insects, soil nutrients, water, and now the farmer himself by replacing him with what are essentially robots. GPS systems drive the tractors while computers control when water, nutrients, pesticides, and herbicides are applied and in what quantities. All of this technology is essential for the farmer to obtain the razor-thin profit margin needed to stay afloat. Now, imagine telling that guy to just chuck all that down the well, and start growing organically. Everything he's been told to do to make a modest profit he should just forget. Instead, he has to unlearn all that, and learn a totally new way of managing the vagaries of farming, but this time, without chemicals to control pests, disease, and weeds, and without plant varieties that are genetically modified to resist the same. He doesn't have any of the right equipment or know how. Plus, who is going to buy this stuff from him? "Oh dear," you say, "just market it yourself, direct to the consumer (me), who wants it." But he's already working around the clock just to produce the product, now he has to become a marketer too? But there are some existential threats to farming that could, out of necessity, create change in how farmers do their work. Chief among them is climate change. The book discusses how, if we continue on the current trajectory, the plains of Nebraska will become so hot it will be near impossible to continue to grow water-intensive crops like corn and soybeans there. Further, even though Nebraska's Natural Resource Districts are the most effective in the country at metering water usage, the Ogallala Aquifer that feeds Nebraska's center-pivot irrigation has been unable to recharge itself, raising the possibility that it will one day run out, for good. If this happens, plains farmers will have to return to dry-land farming, which would mean returning the land to pasture for grazing animals or grow drought-tolerant grains like wheat or sorghum, or get out of farming altogether. Another existential treat, one related to climate change, are the oil pipelines. Oil companies have successfully persuaded politicians that our farmland is merely negative space, well suited as conduits for crude oil and natural gas. Farmers and indigenous water protectors are the last line of defense, since they alone understand that the land beneath the proposed pipeline routes are not devoid of significance. Particularly as climate change advances, it's likely that American arable lands will diminish, and that the subsequent loss of productivity will require more land than is currently needed to grow enough to meet demand. To the extent that we pollute what farmland we have left with spilled oil, we reduce our ability to weather the changes on the horizon. I really enjoyed this book. The author's style is readable and warm. He understands his subject well, not just in terms of the complexities of agriculture, but from the human perspective also. I felt after reading this book that I came to understand the personal and the economic significance of what the individuals in this story had set out to do. Their decisions resonate not just in the here and now, but in the vast story of the land and the people on it that stretches back seven generations. There's a story, and I don't know if it's true or not, that the native Americans would do, not what was best for themselves today, but what was best for the seventh generation hence. Most of us cannot even fathom what that would be like. But for the family portrayed in this book, the seventh generation is here, now. Their land belongs not just to them, but to the seven generations that came before them, who fought droughts and depressions and weathered political changes, who lost the land and then struggled to buy it back, whose successes and failures became what the land and the family is today. And it belongs to the next seven generations who will reap what this generation sows, and the next, and the next. This is why I'm worried about the loss of farmers on the land. Not because I don't think robots can grow food as well as humans -- they probably can. But who will be left to speak for the generations that came before, and the generations that will come after us? Who will tell the land's story? What will become of our most precious natural resources if, in the minds of the general public and our political leadership, it's all just negative space? This book is unique, and in some sense, that worries me too. If these are the stories that farmers only tell each other, then we will lose the land without even realizing what we have lost, until it is too late to do anything about it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kim Staley

    I had to share parts of this with my Dad, who is a lifelong full time farmer in southeast Iowa. Between the Pioneer seed corn stories and the center pivot irrigators, i knew he could relate. It was as if the author was telling our farm story too! And the history of Nebraska farming as well as the development of biotechnology were quite interesting as well. I always knew bits and peices being a farmers daughter, but didn't know quite how we got where we are today. I especially liked how he quoted I had to share parts of this with my Dad, who is a lifelong full time farmer in southeast Iowa. Between the Pioneer seed corn stories and the center pivot irrigators, i knew he could relate. It was as if the author was telling our farm story too! And the history of Nebraska farming as well as the development of biotechnology were quite interesting as well. I always knew bits and peices being a farmers daughter, but didn't know quite how we got where we are today. I especially liked how he quoted the daughter Mehgan as she shared how everybody thinks we can just turn back to the way things used to be, but the reality is how in the heck would that work?!? As my Dad is approaching 75, he is slowly retiring out of things and the questions are many about what will happen to the farm going forward. I felt like i was different growing up because there were so few farm kids it seemed and that population is getting even smaller all the time. The load farmers bear is beyond what people can even understand. Every decision they have to make depends on the weather and the economy. So much patience is required. I hope more people not from the farm will try and understand more how agriculture affects them in so many ways they don't even realize!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    A fairly short read for the library book club meeting (I actually went this month!). So much felt familiar being a farmer's daughter, but either I wasn't paying much attention as a kid or my dad didn't talk business enough because I still learned a few things. The book focuses on one farm family in York County, Nebraska, with side stories about the author's family (also farmers) and historical forays. The most fascinating one -- Henry Ford's obsession with soybeans. There are a few things said a A fairly short read for the library book club meeting (I actually went this month!). So much felt familiar being a farmer's daughter, but either I wasn't paying much attention as a kid or my dad didn't talk business enough because I still learned a few things. The book focuses on one farm family in York County, Nebraska, with side stories about the author's family (also farmers) and historical forays. The most fascinating one -- Henry Ford's obsession with soybeans. There are a few things said about the current political administration that would probably offend supporters, and the farming family leans more liberal than those I grew up around. These weren't an issue for me but will keep me from being able to give it to my conservative family members.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    Overjoyed that this is a book that sits in the agriculture genre section. This is a great story of a real farm family and gives insight into what it feels like and what needs to be taken into consideration while making decisions on the farm.

  13. 4 out of 5

    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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Zac Lane

    I found the book to be pretty boring being from the midwest. But it could be interesting for those who don't know a lot about farming. I didn't love the writing style either. It read like the dull short story section of an ITBS test. I would recommend it to those who want to learn about farming and have basically no knowledge of it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ericka Clouther

    I am perhaps more interested in this topic than the average reader. I moved to Nebraska about 6 months ago, and I've been trying to read more about Nebraska in general. Being fairly proximate to the farms (actually, I was close to farms in Long Island too) I'm especially interested in Nebraskan farming, and American farming in general. I'm especially disturbed by corporate ownership of seeds and specific plant genetic-variations. Right when we moved here, our government started a trade war with C I am perhaps more interested in this topic than the average reader. I moved to Nebraska about 6 months ago, and I've been trying to read more about Nebraska in general. Being fairly proximate to the farms (actually, I was close to farms in Long Island too) I'm especially interested in Nebraskan farming, and American farming in general. I'm especially disturbed by corporate ownership of seeds and specific plant genetic-variations. Right when we moved here, our government started a trade war with China, which resulted in difficulty selling Nebraskan soybeans at good prices. The book ends right at about that point, and I'm interested in how that problem has developed. Even with my very specific interest in this topic though, I felt like the book progressed slowly. Also, there was only one family member that I felt was sufficiently developed/described for me to take an interest in.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    I doubt I would have read this book, despite it being chosen for "One Book One Nebraska", if our governor hadn't chosen to snub the book at the ceremony. He had not read the book, but the author had differed with him on various issues and so our governor decided that he would not support this book. That shows you what is wrong with our country lately. We decide that because we don't agree with each other, the other person's point of view does not even get to be heard, even on issues that don't h I doubt I would have read this book, despite it being chosen for "One Book One Nebraska", if our governor hadn't chosen to snub the book at the ceremony. He had not read the book, but the author had differed with him on various issues and so our governor decided that he would not support this book. That shows you what is wrong with our country lately. We decide that because we don't agree with each other, the other person's point of view does not even get to be heard, even on issues that don't have anything to do with our original disagreement. This was a great book to read to learn about the pressures farmers face today. Thank God we have people who will put up with the uncertainty that is farming. I found the book to be very enjoyable. Thank you Governor Ricketts!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Excellent study of a year in the life of modern farming in my home state of Nebraska. Mixing in the personal story with the facts about the importance of water and modern crop hybrids made this a fascinating read. It gave me a greater respect for the challenges that farmers face and that the decisions made aren’t always so simple. This is the book for 2019’s All Iowa Reads and the One Book One Nebraska programs.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Staci Cahis

    I initially picked up this book simply because the governor of my state (who I despise- Pete Dicketts as I like to refer to him) refused to honor this book despite the facts that it was written by a Nebraskan author and is a nonfictional depiction of the lives of a sixth generation farm family who live and farm in Nebraska. Furthermore, he refused to honor the book without even having read it and proclaimed that the author was a "political activist" that had criticized Trump in the past with no I initially picked up this book simply because the governor of my state (who I despise- Pete Dicketts as I like to refer to him) refused to honor this book despite the facts that it was written by a Nebraskan author and is a nonfictional depiction of the lives of a sixth generation farm family who live and farm in Nebraska. Furthermore, he refused to honor the book without even having read it and proclaimed that the author was a "political activist" that had criticized Trump in the past with no idea of what the book was truly about or depicting. Having now read the book myself, I can honestly say that Governor Dicketts has no idea what he was talking about and had zero justification in refusing to honor this book, regardless of the author's political affiliation or beliefs. This being said, I found the book to be somewhat boring, but having grown up in rural Nebraska myself, it's somewhat difficult for me personally to derive much enjoyment about the realities of our state. It was however, refreshing to learn that there are farmers in Nebraska who are educated, open minded, conscious of environmental risk, and attempting to make Nebraska greener both by preventing contamination and by increasing our renewable energy sources. There were also several things I learned about American history that I either formerly forgot or never knew, for example, the rise of the soybean in throughout the United States and specifically in Nebraska and that creating small farms owned by many individuals helped dissuade large land barons who tragically depended upon slavery in the south (which culminated in the Civil War) from taking over the land in Nebraska before it became a state. I am so incredibly grateful to President Lincoln and his amazing forethought, he truly was an amazing man. I also learned quite a few things about farming, specifically of genetic hybrid farming and corn reproduction that I didn't formerly know. I also gleaned more knowledge about Bold Nebraska, an organization I strongly support, and more about the threats the Keystone XL Pipeline brings to our state, namely I didn't previously know that this company was planning on shipping almost all of its oil to China and that it had personally threatened the land owners where the pipeline would cross in Nebraska if they refused to sign easement agreements despite the fact that they owned their own land. I abhor any and all thoughts that our State government would support this project when the benefits to our state would be almost nonexistent and the threats to our land, water, and air would be overwhelming. I did unfortunately think that the concern about herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides was somewhat played down and skimmed over- I personally feel that these topics are also of the utmost importance and that these products need to be more stringently tested and controlled to prevent the continuous poisoning of our water, land, and air by these natural and synthetic toxins. Overall I'm glad that I read this book and it gave me hope that people in Nebraska do truly care about our environment, health, and future well being and I recommend it to any one who wants to gain more knowledge about the lifestyle and challenges faced by today's farmers and to extend your knowledge about how important your personal lifestyle choices affect not only yourself but your neighbors as well.

  19. 4 out of 5

    E.

    When I moved to Nebraska in 2010 all new UCC and DOC ministers gathered at Camp Kaleo in the center of the state in the Sandhills near Burwell for an orientation to ministry in Nebraska. One of our speakers was a western Nebraska rancher. He talked about rural-urban divides and how urban folk don't understand ag issues. I pointed out that many urban people were deeply concerned about agriculture as evidenced by the growing interest in eating locally and organically; I almost mentioned my long fo When I moved to Nebraska in 2010 all new UCC and DOC ministers gathered at Camp Kaleo in the center of the state in the Sandhills near Burwell for an orientation to ministry in Nebraska. One of our speakers was a western Nebraska rancher. He talked about rural-urban divides and how urban folk don't understand ag issues. I pointed out that many urban people were deeply concerned about agriculture as evidenced by the growing interest in eating locally and organically; I almost mentioned my long fondness for Wendell Berry. The rancher was very dismissive of what I said. Later, I was talking to my Conference Minister and asked him about it. His answer, "For a family to have survived farming in Nebraska, they have bought up the land of their neighbors and they now run such big industrial farms that the ideas of organic farming challenge how they've been living for a couple of generations." It was a good learning moment for me. Genoways book is a story of one year in the life of one Nebraska farm family, a liberal family at that, but ones who still farm with contemporary industrial practices. The book helps you to understand why and the history of getting there. I deeply appreciated it for conveying how difficult and complex farming is today and the breadth of skills and knowledge required to be successful--from mechanical and IT know-how to grasping global trade, chemistry, bio-engineering, energy policies, climate science, and more. SO different from the life my grandparents led and their farm I have such nostalgia for. The book left me dizzy and wondering why anyone does it anymore.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stacie

    This is the 2019 All Iowa Reads book for the year. It’s also the choice for the Nebraska One Book One Nebraska for the Iowa and Nebraska Library Associations. Libraries all over both states will have copies of this book and several copies are available on the Overdrive/Libby system for audiobook or ebook versions. I grew up on a small farm and am surrounded by farmers in the small town we live in. Supporting farmers and understanding their sacrifices is important to me. I enjoyed the family story This is the 2019 All Iowa Reads book for the year. It’s also the choice for the Nebraska One Book One Nebraska for the Iowa and Nebraska Library Associations. Libraries all over both states will have copies of this book and several copies are available on the Overdrive/Libby system for audiobook or ebook versions. I grew up on a small farm and am surrounded by farmers in the small town we live in. Supporting farmers and understanding their sacrifices is important to me. I enjoyed the family story the most, but around that was the science, technology, and luck that is connected to farming. Most of this book focused on the growing of corn and soybeans and the business of that. But intermixed with that was the story of a family over a few generations. The farm and family are in Nebraska, but Iowa and other Midwestern states are mentioned as well. In fact, in the book, it mentions a Chinese businessman that tried to steal top-secret corn seeds from a farm not too far from me. Honestly, the book got a little dry and a bit too technical in spots, especially when talking about pesticides or the mechanics of planters or combines. The narration was a little boring. The narrator didn’t add much inflection or emotion to his voice. But, I learned quite a bit about the difficulties associated with farming and the serious business of growing corn. It opened my eyes to the extreme chance farmers take every season to start a crop and hope that everything lines up to get them to a successful harvest.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Piker7977

    Genoways delivers a compelling profile of a family who is affected by technology, markets, debt, weather, climate, politics, economics. Books like these are vital to understanding the complexities of our country as they provide insight into the experience of groups that are often misunderstood or overlooked. The American farm family would qualify as a part of this category. As a resident of one of the more populous cities in Nebraska, I feel this community is commonly stereotyped or marginalized Genoways delivers a compelling profile of a family who is affected by technology, markets, debt, weather, climate, politics, economics. Books like these are vital to understanding the complexities of our country as they provide insight into the experience of groups that are often misunderstood or overlooked. The American farm family would qualify as a part of this category. As a resident of one of the more populous cities in Nebraska, I feel this community is commonly stereotyped or marginalized as the capital city, and her big brother Omaha, look at becoming more cosmopolitan. As you survey the proliferation of craft beer bars, fine eateries, and pho restaurants around towns, it is easy to fall into this trap and forget about the folks outside the cities. This Blessed Earth also does the service of disaggregating rural farmers which allows the reader to see the Hammond family as part of larger debates and conversations that are happening within the agricultural community. We also encounter a little history and background into modern business and farming along with many of the variables that determine success and failure. This is very valuable to consider as it puts into perspective the challenges and risks involved in this important industry.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Debra Lowman

    This book is the 2019 selection for both All Iowa Reads and One Book One Nebraska and a book club pick for the Library. Genoways is no stranger to agricultural writing and in this book looks at the life of a generational family farm in 2014. It was a pretty accurate and powerful snapshot and very readable non-fiction as well. What made this book more interesting was the fact that Nebraska Gov. Ricketts refused to sign the proclamation designating this book as the One Book One Nebraska Read in Ja This book is the 2019 selection for both All Iowa Reads and One Book One Nebraska and a book club pick for the Library. Genoways is no stranger to agricultural writing and in this book looks at the life of a generational family farm in 2014. It was a pretty accurate and powerful snapshot and very readable non-fiction as well. What made this book more interesting was the fact that Nebraska Gov. Ricketts refused to sign the proclamation designating this book as the One Book One Nebraska Read in January, 2019, AFTER it was chosen by the library system (https://journalstar.com/news/local/ri...). It wasn't that Ricketts didn't like the book, in the manner of most book dissenters he hadn't even read it. Instead it was his personal beef with Genoways that sparked the controversy. Sales are at an all time high and Genoways now has plenty of money to write whatever he chooses. Infamy trumps fame every time.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ann Schaffer

    I read this book because I saw it promoted at my library as the All Iowa Reads 2009 eBook. Despite the focus on Nebraska instead of Iowa, I can see why it was chosen for this honor. The book goes well beyond "A Year in the Life of an American Farming Family" and provides a history of bioengineering, irrigation, and other topics related to farming. I learned a lot of very interesting and surprising things. I grew up on a farm in Tama County, Iowa, close to where a shocking incident takes place th I read this book because I saw it promoted at my library as the All Iowa Reads 2009 eBook. Despite the focus on Nebraska instead of Iowa, I can see why it was chosen for this honor. The book goes well beyond "A Year in the Life of an American Farming Family" and provides a history of bioengineering, irrigation, and other topics related to farming. I learned a lot of very interesting and surprising things. I grew up on a farm in Tama County, Iowa, close to where a shocking incident takes place that is described in the book. My first job was walking beans. I detassled and even worked in a test plot for a seed corn company. Later when I moved to Des Moines, I worked for an advertising agency that created seed catalogs for Garst Seed. I now work for John Deere. This background helped me relate to a lot of things written about in the book, but it also helped me understand some things I didn't know that I didn't know. While parts of the book could have been better organized, I hope that This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm makes strides in dispelling misconceptions about farmers being poor country bumpkins. The book justifies American farming as a high tech, immensely complex, and important industry within the US economy.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sheila

    This book was fascinating-- and a little scary in parts as I considered the potential impact business decisions have on farming, which then affects our food supply. What I loved most about this book was how it still maintained a quiet optimism, even as it discussed a lot of negative issues related to how we do agriculture in this country. It also reinforced my desire to eat local, support local farmers, things like that.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Long

    Honestly, this book is not for everyone. (Nebraska pun intended). However, as a farm kid that grew up in south central Nebraska during the 80’s farm crisis, it helps me understand my past in a deeper way. This book is interesting and well written. Considering the governor wouldn’t give it his signature as the choice for One Book, One Nebraska, I expected it to be more political-edgier. Instead, it thoughtfully shares the story of a farm family with history and farm policy sprinkled in. It’s a gr Honestly, this book is not for everyone. (Nebraska pun intended). However, as a farm kid that grew up in south central Nebraska during the 80’s farm crisis, it helps me understand my past in a deeper way. This book is interesting and well written. Considering the governor wouldn’t give it his signature as the choice for One Book, One Nebraska, I expected it to be more political-edgier. Instead, it thoughtfully shares the story of a farm family with history and farm policy sprinkled in. It’s a great read and I am better for having read it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    Well thought out and interesting story of modern American farming As a complete and total City kid living in the midwest now I really enjoyed this book it taught me many things I wasn't aware of and expended upon many things that I thought I knew well. The writing style is Easy-to-Read and beautifully descriptive. I can see why this was chosen as the all Iowa reads book

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jim Mullin

    Excellent tale of current farm life in Nebraska combined with great analytics on almost every facet of farm production and distribution. As a nation we are quite fortunate we have these hardy souls to produce our food stuffs.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I liked this book and found it to be an important read. As an audiobook lover though, I found the listen to be tough. Maybe because I’m a Nebraskan, but there were so many mispronunciations of Nebraska locales found it hard to follow.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Well written, insightful look into a Nebraska farm family. I was particularly interested in the homesteading history and the homesteading background of the family. However, being a farmer myself, I found it much to real . So real that it got depressing to read. Still, a must read book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    David Krajicek

    This fine little book takes an expansive view of the complicated (and conflicting) pressures on today's farmers. While focusing on one family, it includes brisk background sections on climate, water, seed history and center-pivot irrigation systems--all done in reader-friendly narratives that go deep without bogging down.

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