Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

How a drive along a back road prompts thoughts about farming today February 12, 2020

 

I CALL IT THE BACK ROAD to Morristown, Rice County Road 15 south of Faribault and running west to Morristown. The more-traveled main route follows Minnesota State Highway 60.

 

 

But, I prefer the back way, which takes me past farm sites hugging the county road.

 

Looking across a snowy field along Rice County Road 15 near CR 45.

 

Here I feel immersed in the rural setting with less traffic, open land spreading wide under an equally wide sky.

 

 

I know some of the people who live along this road. They are salt-of-the-earth folks, hardworking, caring… Dairy farmers. Retired pig and crop farmer. A farmer who balances crop farming with a full-time job in town. Families raised on the land, with only one son among those I know along CR 15 continuing in farming. One son’s moved to Nashville, where he’s finding success as a professional oboist. I’m working on a story about him for a regional arts and entertainment magazine.

The times they are a changin’.

 

 

But then agriculture has always been evolving. I think back to my great grandparents and my grandparents who broke the land and farmed with horses in an especially labor-intensive way of life. And then machinery replaced horse power for my dad and his farmer brothers. And my middle brother, who no longer farms, saw even more advances in mechanization and technology. I barely recognize the farms of today.

 

 

I’d like to think, though, that those who still work the land do so because they love and value the land. In recent years I’ve observed a shift in attitudes toward a deepening respect of the soil, of using less chemicals (or even none), of adapting innovative erosion control practices, of protecting waterways…

 

 

I recognize the challenges of balancing the need to earn a living from the land, getting the highest yields possible, with decisions about farming practices. It’s not easy. Public perception and government regulations and weather and fluctuating markets add to the stress. It’s not easy being a farmer today. This is not our grandparents’ farm. Nor even our parents.

 

 

To those who choose to live on and work the land, I admire your stamina and determination. While I miss the peace and solitude of living in the country on land where the nearest neighbor lives more than a driveway width away, I realize I never would have made it as a farmer. I don’t have the guts or the fortitude or adaptability necessary to farm.

THOUGHTS?

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Barns along Rice County Road 15 November 16, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:31 AM
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White barn along Rice County 15

 

FOR YEARS WE’VE DRIVEN the back road from Faribault, through Morristown, to visit family in Waseca. The route slices through fields and past farm places that snuggle close to the roadway.

Sunday afternoon en route to Waseca and riding in the passenger front seat of our car with camera in hand, I was ready to capture the beauty of our first snowfall. I decided to focus on barns, which, if you’ve followed Minnesota Prairie Roots, you know I appreciate.

My blog statistics show that you, my readers, share my love of old barns.

So enjoy these barn images, taken through the car windows as my husband and I traveled along Rice County Road 15 between Faribault and Morristown. I’m pleased with how they turned out given I had little time to compose the shots.

Now just imagine what I could produce if I actually took the time to stop, get out of the car and take the photos. But we were in a hurry.

And, as my husband says, if we stopped every time I wanted to take a picture, we’d never get anywhere.

 

 

I couldn't believe how this picture turned out as I shot it through the driver's side window. The line of the car perfectly mimics the barn's roof line.

 

 

The owner of this barn, a friend of ours, re-roofed his barn this summer.

 

 

Of all the shots I took, this is my favorite because of its composition and because of the black earth peeking through the fresh, thin layer of snow.

 

 

I edited this to black-and-white even though there is little difference from the original white barn against the snow.

 

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Check back for more barn photos from that road trip to Wascea.