Imagine running through rows of cornstalks: The green surrounds you, reaching far above your head and as far out as you can see. The only thing that breaks the green is the baby blue sky above the golden tassels, the royal crowns of the corn. The white sun warms the top of your hair as the cool, rough corn leaves brush against your skin. The wind blows, causing the corn to murmur and groan as it waves to the sky. It smells of fresh foliage and warm earth. You can catch a faint scent of the cows grazing in the nearby pasture, and hear the hum of the tractor as the afternoon chores begin.
This was my home. I grew up on a dairy farm in Osage, Minnesota. My dad, Richard Laine, bought the farm from his parents after he married my mom, Dana. She’s from Wisconsin, but we try not to hold that against her. They had seven children together, four boys and three girls. I wound up with two older brothers and two younger brothers; I was relieved of having to fit in with the boys when one sister, and then another, came along.
We came to learn and love the singularity of farm life. I collected eggs from the chickens, hunting high and low while trying to stay unnoticed by the rooster. My dad would carry two five-gallon buckets of milk down from the barn so my brothers and I could feed the calves at the bottom of the hill. We would help catch those same calves when they escaped from their pen and went to visit the neighbors. During milking, my dad would help me put the milking units on the “nice” cows. I would then get my brothers yelled at for spraying me with the parlor hose. We were major assets to the farm.
These are some of the fondest memories of my youth. However, it’s important to know that as a child I was unaware of the struggles that farmers from Minnesota, and the rest of the country, faced. In the fall of 2000, my family had to sell out of the dairy business.
Farming in the 21st century isn’t what it was a hundred years ago.
After coming to Massachusetts, I was amazed by how much pressure there is to buy organic, locally grown produce. I cannot help but wonder if MA farmers face a battle similar to the one my parents went through, or if—even in this economy— the local food craze has put farms in the safe zone. If I’ve learned one thing from moving to the east coast, it’s that people from Massachusetts love their local food. I wonder if that love has translated into a sustainable culture for local farms.
We will see.