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Farmers Have Front Row Seats for Total Solar Eclipse

The rare total eclipse of the sun that will occur in a band across the entire continental United States on Monday, August 21, is being touted as a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will be shared by millions of Americans.

The excitement in some corners of the country is barely contained. One website devoted to the event,, “encourages everyone to get into the path of totality on eclipse day, and see one of the greatest sights the sky has to offer!”

Some enthusiasts frame the event in big, historic terms.

“With tens of millions of people headed for the zone of totality, it’s going to be the biggest science event in history,” writes Michael Bakich, senior editor for Astronomy Magazine. “But be sure to plan to experience totality. You’ll remember it for the rest of your life as the greatest thing you ever saw!”

Farm towns in the 70-mile-wide band of totality have capitalized on the excitement. Ravenna, Nebraska, for example, has planned a four-day total eclipse festival, which will include educational programs from a NASA astronaut and engineer, a music festival, parade, arts and crafts fair, guided eclipse viewing events, and more. Ravenna (population 1,373) expects to attract as many as 15,000 people to town for the eclipse festivities, says event coordinator Gena McPherson.

“Several farm businesses funded a giant mobile mural that highlights the eclipse but also encourages people to experience our rural community of Ravenna,” McPherson adds. “The local farm co-op is expected to create an agricultural display for our out-of-town guests.”

One farm owner east of town has set up a three-day camp-out and art festival. Others report hosting events for their families and friends.

Clearly, farmers have a front row seat to the eclipse. Open farmsteads, fields, and pastures away from ground light will be prime space for total eclipse viewing. And that’s why I’m headed to the family farm near Ravenna, which sits right smack in the middle of the totality path, to share the excitement with a couple farmer friends who will join me on the journey.

In preparing for the trip, it’s dawned on me that there are several ways farmers and ranchers can make the most of this dramatic celestial event.

  • Take the day off. This total eclipse phenomenon has become almost like a national holiday. Why not reward yourself with a small vacation from work? Harvest preparation can wait another day, can’t it?
  • Stake out a good viewing spot ahead of time. We’ll be parked in the middle of the farm, well off the road on a small hill, and a good distance from ground light. (We’ll be sure the yard light won’t switch on automatically, once the sun “sets” just before noon on Monday.)
  • Cash in on the excitement. One landowner east of Ravenna is renting camping spaces and holding an art festival. Ravenna’s Cedar Hills winery is hosting a variety of programs, including, meals, music, and a special bottle for the occasion.
  • Travel to the path of totality. If your farm doesn’t sit in the 70-mile-wide band that stretches from Oregon to South Carolina, consider making the trip. Better check ahead for accommodations and viewing sites.
  • Attend an eclipse event. On Saturday and Sunday, many towns and cities in the path of the totality are hosting festivals and viewing events.
  • Get the family together. Sunday, total eclipse eve, would be a great time for a cookout and to watch the night sky as a preview to the drama that follows on Monday. That’s what our Ravenna farm operator is doing.
  • Create your own viewing event. Ravenna is using its baseball fields for guided eclipse viewing. Why not invite some of your city friends over for a watch party Monday morning? Show ’em the sky you get to see every day. While the complete blackout of the sun by the moon will last only 2 minutes and 35 seconds in Ravenna, the partial eclipse will begin an hour and half earlier, plenty of time to enjoy the buildup to the big show. 
  • Take in the glory of the sun. The total eclipse will afford a rare view of the sun with the naked eye. Google “total eclipse” and you’ll get some good background on what to look for during the eclipse. During the total eclipse, you’ll see the sun’s “diamond ring,” its corona, unusual colors in the sky, and the stars and planets coming out in the middle of the day.
  • Observe nature. During the partial eclipse, your natural surroundings will change. A 360° “sunset” will occur, with different looking shadows. Birds will quit singing and come in to roost. Breezes will calm and the temperature drop significantly. During the partial eclipse, leaves on trees may act as tiny pinhole cameras and reflect the crescent shape of the sun.
  • View the eclipse safely. There is plenty of information on the web on how to view the eclipse safely. Be sure to use certified viewing glasses and monitor the behavior of children watching the eclipse. During the partial phases eclipse, you must use protective filters.
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