When I retired here six years ago from North Carolina, I was somewhat concerned about finding the flat land boring. However, I quickly discovered the extent of the agriculture of Kent County and was amazed to see farming on such a large scale. It fascinated me then and still does.
I cannot fast forward to today without envisioning what it took to clear the land while at the same time providing for a family. Just ride around and look at a thick patch of woods and try to picture this entire county looking like that, then imagine arriving here with your family in a wagon with a mule and an axe.
Now look around at the fields that go on forever–huge equipment with tires that seem even bigger if you meet one on a country road. I still don’t know what most of those big red and green things are designed to do, much less what they must cost. Meeting one on a two-lane road can be a bit scary for a newcomer. I still can’t seem to take my eyes off one stopped at a red light or rumbling through town. The biggest things I’m used to seeing are city busses or eighteen wheelers. I suppose if I had grown up here, seeing the seasons come and go and the equipment working, it would be old hat, but not for me.
I am sure I am not alone, but I never gave our country’s food supply much thought, until I moved here and saw the massive crop production. I grew up in peach country South Carolina, worked in Florida orange country and marveled at the sea of sunflowers and wheat when driving through the western plains.
Now I look at Kent County and try to imagine it in multiples by thousands. Where would we be, or, for that matter, where would the World be if not for the farmers, ranchers, watermen, and scientists now and for as long as our country exists, and we live free?
At first, I could not understand why open trailer eighteen wheelers were rolling on almost every road, even downtown. Where were they coming from, where were they going and what was their cargo? Over time, after asking many questions, I began to understand what was going on and the planting-to-harvest cycle. What little I’ve learned has led me to watching the weather to see if the corn is getting enough rain, or if it is too wet to harvest beans. As if I would know. I guess it makes me feel a part of the community.
I love riding the back roads and watching the fields change with the seasons–cover crops to corn, to beans. Planting to harvest. Monster equipment kicking up clouds of dust and seeing those eighteen wheelers coming out of a dusty dirt road to pavement. I now understand what they are carrying, but where are they going? They seem to be going in all directions.
I’ve been told that all the corn and beans I see harvested and carried away is still not enough feed to support the local chicken farmers. I eat my share of chicken, but that is simply hard for me to fathom.
I moved here from the high mountains of Western North Carolina. There are no large farm operations in that area for a number of reasons. It’s cool in those mountains at over 3,000-foot elevation. The soil is rocky and steep. Apples like it, but not much else. Cabbage, some sweet corn, and other vegetables are grown in the lower valleys. Truck farming, I think they call it.
There was some family subsistence farming, but that is all gone now. Some people try to have a garden if they can find a flat piece of ground with good sun. They are lucky if their tomatoes turn red before first frost.
In the old days, settlers had no choice but to farm the fields they had–no matter how steep. They plowed with mules that were said to have longer legs on one side in order to stand up.
One of the old jokes my dad loved to tell goes like this. It seems a stranger to the area was driving a country road on the side of a mountain when he came upon a fellow picking himself up off the road while brushing the dust off his overalls. The stranger stopped and asked if he was all right. The farmer said “Yep, but that’s the third time today I’ve fallen out of that field.”
WEAR YOUR MASK, CONSIDER YOUR NEIGHBORS ….