Farm fields stretch as far as the eye can see under an expansive sky in southwestern Minnesota.
TRAVEL MY NATIVE RURAL southwestern Minnesota as I did several days ago, and you will see vast fields of corn stretching across the landscape. Here you will find some of Minnesota’s richest and most fertile soil. Here corn and soybeans dominate.
A flooded field photographed on July 3 just east of Belview in Redwood County, Minnesota.
In a particularly challenging growing season of late spring planting followed now by too much rain, farmers hope still for a bountiful harvest. Even as they view fields resembling lakes. But to be a farmer is to hold optimism.
A tractor and digger parked in a field along Minnesota State Highway 19 between Redwood Falls and the Belview corner.
Everything in these small communities centers on a farming economy. In years of good yields, businesses benefit. In years of low yields and low prices, small towns suffer. It is the cyclical nature of farm life in rural America.
An abandoned farmhouse sits atop a hill along Minnesota State Highway 19 near the Belview corner.
There’s much to appreciate about this rural region that roots me and grew me into a writer and photographer. Folks value the land and embrace a strong sense of community and of place.
Promotional billboards along U.S. Highway 14 and State Highway 4 in downtown Sleepy Eye.
In Sleepy Eye to the west of New Ulm, for example, the community celebrates Buttered Corn Days in August. This small town is home to a Del Monte Food’s corn and pea processing plant. We’re talking sweet corn here, not field corn.
Vending sweet corn in downtown Sleepy Eye on July 3.
Sweet corn season has just begun in Minnesota with roadside vendors pulling into parking lots and alongside roadways to sell fresh sweet corn from the backs of pick-up trucks. Farm to table at its most basic.
In a public visiting space at Parkview Home…
In the small town of Belview even farther to the west in my home county of Redwood, a single stalk of DeKalb field corn stands in a five-gallon bucket inside Parkview Home where my mom lives. I laughed when I saw the corn stalk with the notation of planted on May 13. Back in the day, corn growth was measured by “knee high by the Fourth of July.” Corn, in a typical year, now far surpasses that height by July 4. Not this year.
Silos and grain elevators are the highest architectural points on the prairie.
I can only imagine how many conversations that single corn stalk prompted at Parkview where most residents grew up on and/or operated farms. It’s details like this which define the rural character of a place and its people.
© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling