Richard Manning, “Against The Grain”

“There is a story in my family about my paternal grandfather, a respected and successful, albeit bullheaded, farmer in Northern Michigan.  The story…occurred during the Great Depression, in a period of poor prices.  Then, my grandfather raised mostly potatoes.  That fall, he loaded a truck full of potatoes and took them to the local selling shed, where buyers offered him a price he thought pathetic.  So he refused to sell, backed the truck across the road, dumped the potatoes in the ditch, and then drove the truck over them to crush them, as the buyers looked on.  To this day, farmers are offered pathetic prices for crops, but no one in his right mind would do what my grandfather did.

As far as I know, he was in his right mind, and besides his potatoes, he also had at home cattle, hogs, chickens, eggs my grandmother used or sold, milk and cream from cows, apples, seed potatoes saved, and manure piling up to fertilize next year’s crop.  A wood lot gave him lumber and fuel to heat the house.  Neighbors supplied him with labor when he needed it, and he repaid them in kind.  He had alternatives and could get through a year without selling his potatoes.  His was the last generation of farmers to have that independence, before it got traded away for efficiency.”

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