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This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,012 ratings  ·  226 reviews
The family farm lies at the heart of our national identity, and yet its future is in peril. Rick Hammond grew up on a farm, and for forty years he has raised cattle and crops on his wife’s fifth-generation homestead in Nebraska, in hopes of passing it on to their four children. But as the handoff nears, their family farm—and their entire way of life—are under siege on many ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published November 20th 2018 by W. W. Norton Company (first published September 19th 2017)
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Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book wasn't even on my radar until Governor Pete Ricketts of Nebraska (my home and the setting of this book) refused to sign the the proclamation of this book receiving the 2019 One Book One Nebraska book by the Nebraska Library Commission on basis of the author being a "political activist". Of course, for Petey this means "probably a democrat", as there is nothing even remotely political about this book, only factual analysis of the realities of the dying family farm; indeed, the dying of ...more
For the Hammonds, a Nebraska farming family, the 2014 harvest season started with a perfect storm of perilous circumstances: a spell of good weather led to nationwide crop overproduction and surpluses, which caused a drop in projected prices; then heavy late-summer rains delayed the harvest. Genoways, whose family roots are in farming, followed Rick Hammond’s family and workers over one critical year, October 2014 to October 2015. He vividly conveys the rhythms of farming and reflects on the his ...more
Emily Goenner
Jan 20, 2019 marked it as tried-it-nope
This book was selected as a group read by my university and, since I'm married to a farmer, I was eager to read it. I made it through the intro and part of the first chapter. This book is so overwritten; the flowery language meant to conjure images and evoke feelings feels like its trying so hard, too hard, and takes so much time, I just couldn't make it any further. Disappointing, since this topic is so close to my heart.
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a Goodreads win review. I may not have enjoyed this book so much when I lived in Palm Springs, CA for 38 years. In the part I lived in we only grew tourists. Down they grow figs, dates, grapefruit and other crops. The reason I really liked this book is because I now live in Kansas and when I have been driving all over the state I have seen cotton, soybeans, wheat , corn, melons, peaches growing. We also have cow farms and raise cattle. When I went to Dodge City the trolley took us to the ...more
Clear and succinct explanations of farming on USA , corn and soy beans mostly , using conventional organophosphates and manufactured fertilizer and gmo seed and aquifer water. Author does a great job explaining the water issues and how seed corn is produced and how gmo "works". Interesting highlights too on XL pipeline as it was going right through these folks' farm. Good general interest book on history of farming and modern farming in Nebraska. Has some pictures and bibliography.
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is the 2019 selection for both All Iowa Reads and One Book One Nebraska. I grew up in a rural area of northwest Missouri but not on a farm and I know next to nothing about farming. It was a really interesting read. I had no idea that tractors have all this technology measuring moisture in the soil and such.

This is not a political book. But it came onto my radar when I read a blog posting by the book’s author. Apparently it is customary for the governor of Nebraska to sign a proclamati
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Genoways, an award winning author & journalist, does exactly what the book title states in this well-written story, sets down a year in the life of an American family farm. The Hammond family history on their farm also contrasts farming today with farming of yesteryear. The book enlightens people like me, having no farm background, about concerns such as water and irrigation management and raising crops, and cattle. Chosen the 2019 One Book One Nebraska book by the Nebraska Library Commission, i ...more
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Every Nebraskan and every farmer should read this book. The governor of Nebraska has refused to sign the One Nebraska proclamation over this book, but that ignores the usefulness of this book in understanding the current farm crisis. There is a lot of background and history most people probably do not know. This account could be a valuable starting place for discussion.

People who eat, and want to be able to eat in the future, should read this to gain understanding of what we are up against.
Apr 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Honestly, this is the story I had tried to write as a senior in college for my comps (senior thesis) paper. Although I did not receive a "distinction" award, this book deserves one. It is a work of regional history, agricultural history, and sociology through participant observation. It tells the story that most of us never hear, about the people who grow most of the agricultural commodities produced and sold in the U.S. It's the story of "flyover country." Literally, these ar ...more
Kim Staley
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I had to share parts of this with my Dad, who is a lifelong full time farmer in southeast Iowa. Between the Pioneer seed corn stories and the center pivot irrigators, i knew he could relate. It was as if the author was telling our farm story too! And the history of Nebraska farming as well as the development of biotechnology were quite interesting as well. I always knew bits and peices being a farmers daughter, but didn't know quite how we got where we are today. I especially liked how he quoted ...more
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
A fairly short read for the library book club meeting (I actually went this month!). So much felt familiar being a farmer's daughter, but either I wasn't paying much attention as a kid or my dad didn't talk business enough because I still learned a few things. The book focuses on one farm family in York County, Nebraska, with side stories about the author's family (also farmers) and historical forays. The most fascinating one -- Henry Ford's obsession with soybeans. There are a few things said a ...more
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Overjoyed that this is a book that sits in the agriculture genre section. This is a great story of a real farm family and gives insight into what it feels like and what needs to be taken into consideration while making decisions on the farm.
Anna Marie Jonas
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have even more respect for the men and women who farm after reading this book. A possible water crisis addressed in the book is troubling, though.
Zac Lane
Apr 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
I found the book to be pretty boring being from the midwest. But it could be interesting for those who don't know a lot about farming.

I didn't love the writing style either. It read like the dull short story section of an ITBS test.

I would recommend it to those who want to learn about farming and have basically no knowledge of it.
Ericka Clouther
I am perhaps more interested in this topic than the average reader. I moved to Nebraska about 6 months ago, and I've been trying to read more about Nebraska in general. Being fairly proximate to the farms (actually, I was close to farms in Long Island too) I'm especially interested in Nebraskan farming, and American farming in general. I'm especially disturbed by corporate ownership of seeds and specific plant genetic-variations.

Right when we moved here, our government started a trade war with C
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I doubt I would have read this book, despite it being chosen for "One Book One Nebraska", if our governor hadn't chosen to snub the book at the ceremony. He had not read the book, but the author had differed with him on various issues and so our governor decided that he would not support this book. That shows you what is wrong with our country lately. We decide that because we don't agree with each other, the other person's point of view does not even get to be heard, even on issues that don't h ...more
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent study of a year in the life of modern farming in my home state of Nebraska. Mixing in the personal story with the facts about the importance of water and modern crop hybrids made this a fascinating read. It gave me a greater respect for the challenges that farmers face and that the decisions made aren’t always so simple. This is the book for 2019’s All Iowa Reads and the One Book One Nebraska programs.
Staci Cahis
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-challenge
I initially picked up this book simply because the governor of my state (who I despise- Pete Dicketts as I like to refer to him) refused to honor this book despite the facts that it was written by a Nebraskan author and is a nonfictional depiction of the lives of a sixth generation farm family who live and farm in Nebraska. Furthermore, he refused to honor the book without even having read it and proclaimed that the author was a "political activist" that had criticized Trump in the past with no ...more
May 28, 2019 rated it liked it
When I moved to Nebraska in 2010 all new UCC and DOC ministers gathered at Camp Kaleo in the center of the state in the Sandhills near Burwell for an orientation to ministry in Nebraska. One of our speakers was a western Nebraska rancher. He talked about rural-urban divides and how urban folk don't understand ag issues. I pointed out that many urban people were deeply concerned about agriculture as evidenced by the growing interest in eating locally and organically; I almost mentioned my long fo ...more
Mar 14, 2019 rated it liked it
This is the 2019 All Iowa Reads book for the year. It’s also the choice for the Nebraska One Book One Nebraska for the Iowa and Nebraska Library Associations. Libraries all over both states will have copies of this book and several copies are available on the Overdrive/Libby system for audiobook or ebook versions. I grew up on a small farm and am surrounded by farmers in the small town we live in. Supporting farmers and understanding their sacrifices is important to me.

I enjoyed the family story
Genoways delivers a compelling profile of a family who is affected by technology, markets, debt, weather, climate, politics, economics. Books like these are vital to understanding the complexities of our country as they provide insight into the experience of groups that are often misunderstood or overlooked. The American farm family would qualify as a part of this category. As a resident of one of the more populous cities in Nebraska, I feel this community is commonly stereotyped or marginalized ...more
Debra Lowman
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is the 2019 selection for both All Iowa Reads and One Book One Nebraska and a book club pick for the Library. Genoways is no stranger to agricultural writing and in this book looks at the life of a generational family farm in 2014. It was a pretty accurate and powerful snapshot and very readable non-fiction as well.

What made this book more interesting was the fact that Nebraska Gov. Ricketts refused to sign the proclamation designating this book as the One Book One Nebraska Read in Ja
Ann Schaffer
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-challenge
I read this book because I saw it promoted at my library as the All Iowa Reads 2009 eBook. Despite the focus on Nebraska instead of Iowa, I can see why it was chosen for this honor. The book goes well beyond "A Year in the Life of an American Farming Family" and provides a history of bioengineering, irrigation, and other topics related to farming. I learned a lot of very interesting and surprising things. I grew up on a farm in Tama County, Iowa, close to where a shocking incident takes place th ...more
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was fascinating-- and a little scary in parts as I considered the potential impact business decisions have on farming, which then affects our food supply. What I loved most about this book was how it still maintained a quiet optimism, even as it discussed a lot of negative issues related to how we do agriculture in this country. It also reinforced my desire to eat local, support local farmers, things like that.
Amanda Long
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Honestly, this book is not for everyone. (Nebraska pun intended). However, as a farm kid that grew up in south central Nebraska during the 80’s farm crisis, it helps me understand my past in a deeper way. This book is interesting and well written. Considering the governor wouldn’t give it his signature as the choice for One Book, One Nebraska, I expected it to be more political-edgier. Instead, it thoughtfully shares the story of a farm family with history and farm policy sprinkled in. It’s a gr ...more
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Well thought out and interesting story of modern American farming

As a complete and total City kid living in the midwest now I really enjoyed this book it taught me many things I wasn't aware of and expended upon many things that I thought I knew well. The writing style is Easy-to-Read and beautifully descriptive. I can see why this was chosen as the all Iowa reads book
Jim Mullin
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Excellent tale of current farm life in Nebraska combined with great analytics on almost every facet of farm production and distribution. As a nation we are quite fortunate we have these hardy souls to produce our food stuffs.
Feb 27, 2019 rated it liked it
I liked this book and found it to be an important read. As an audiobook lover though, I found the listen to be tough. Maybe because I’m a Nebraskan, but there were so many mispronunciations of Nebraska locales found it hard to follow.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Nancy by: Akron Public Library Book Club
Well written, insightful look into a Nebraska farm family. I was particularly interested in the homesteading history and the homesteading background of the family. However, being a farmer myself, I found it much to real . So real that it got depressing to read. Still, a must read book.
David Krajicek
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This fine little book takes an expansive view of the complicated (and conflicting) pressures on today's farmers. While focusing on one family, it includes brisk background sections on climate, water, seed history and center-pivot irrigation systems--all done in reader-friendly narratives that go deep without bogging down.
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Ted Genoways is an acclaimed journalist and author of The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food. A contributing editor at Mother Jones, the New Republic, and Pacific Standard, he is the winner of a National Press Club Award and the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, and is a two-time James Beard Foundation Award finalist. He has received fellowships from the NEA and the Gu ...more

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