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The Best Successful Farming Long Reads From 2018

To say there’s been a lot of news coming out of D.C. involving farmers, farm policy, and trade, may be the understatement of the year. The 2018 headlines were dominated with NAFTA negotiations, the ongoing trade talks with China, the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, and the announcement of the Market Facilitation Program.

We’re guessing in the midst of all that, you might have missed some of our best longform articles. These aren’t the hard-hitting news pieces mentioned above (you can find a list of those here). These are the in-depth pieces that uncover the history of an industry, show the resilience of a farmer after a devastating accident, and detail the transformation taking place in rural America. Browse through our list below and enjoy!

Paralysis Couldn’t Keep This Minnesota Farmer Down

A snowmobile accident left Minnesota farmer Ryan Buck paralyzed from the chest down, but it wasn’t going to stop him from doing what he loved.

“Farming was something I loved before I got hurt and once I got hurt, I knew I wanted to continue no matter what or how hard it would be,” he says. “I used that determination moving forward.” Read the full story.

How Smithfield Saved the Worst Hog Farm in America

The history of the former Premium Standard Farms (PSF) hog operation in northern Missouri is as tortured as any in the modern swine industry. When Smithfield Foods bought the formerly bankrupt 221,000-sow complex in 2006, PSF was the second-largest pork producer in the U.S. (behind Smithfield). It was bogged down in nuisance lawsuits, the barns were in disrepair, and pig performance was poor.

Now things are finally turning around. Read the full story.

How Premium Standard Farms Transformed the Pig Business

With more than $.5 billion in hand, Wall Street investor Tad Gordon and feed specialist Dennis Harms created the biggest pig complex the U.S. had ever seen.

“We woke up the industry to better ways to do things. We had a huge impact. They couldn’t believe what we did,” says Gordon. Read the full story.

Dennis Harms and Tad Gordon
Dennis Harms and Tad Gordon

Farmers Square Off vs. Keystone Pipeline

For Raymond and Lillian Anderson, the pipeline that now crosses their cropland was never about money. It was about their land.

“Our land wasn’t meant for a pipeline. It was meant to produce crops,” says Lillian Anderson, who farms near Langford, South Dakota. “I really think Raymond is a steward of the land. He values what it produces and why it produces. And as a steward of the land, he wanted to protect the land.” Read the full story.

Hometown USA

Rural America is at a crossroads. The trends portend a shrinking population base and a changing demographic. To see what that means for specific towns, we asked Successful Farming magazine editors to return to their hometowns. What has changed since they left? Does it still feel like home?

Hometown USA: Langford, South Dakota

Gil Gullickson, executive editor of crops technology, reflects on how his hometown of Langford, South Dakota, has changed since he graduated from high school in 1979.

“Recent media reports of farm consolidation, drug abuse, and limited economic opportunities paint a sketchy picture of rural America,” he writes. “There’s some of that in my home area, of course. Still, there are many positive factors I found occurring that aren’t initially apparent.” Read the full story.

Hometown USA: Johnston, Iowa, Transforms From Rural to Residential

Copy Editor Janis Gandy didn’t have to travel very far to go back home. In fact, she didn’t have to take a single step. That’s because she lives in her hometown of Johnston, Iowa.

“As a matter of fact, I am the third generation of Gandys who claim Johnston as their hometown,” she writes. “So to fulfill my contribution to this series of stories, I’d like to draw upon my family’s history to illustrate how everyday life has evolved from rural to residential over the past seven decades by sharing three personal snapshots in time.” Read the full story.

city-of-johnston
City of Johnston

Hometown USA: An Illinois Farm Town Grows Into Suburbia

New Lenox, Illinois, the hometown of Editorial Content Director Dave Kurns, has grown by leaps and bounds. The one-time farming community has become a suburb of Chicago because of its growth and access to rail and highways to the big city.

“We’re just so close to Chicago that people want to get out of Chicago,” says farmer Dave Kestel of the population explosion across the area. “I don’t blame ’em, cause I don’t even like going up there. Yeah, it’s changed.” Read the full story.

Hometown USA: Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough Communities Do

As in most small towns, farming and the businesses on main street are the pulse of the community in Multimedia Editor Jodi Henke’s hometown of Clarence, Iowa. And like many towns in ag-centered rural America, Clarence has had to rebound from the farm crisis of the 1980s.

“We have our bad times and then we have some really good times, and hopefully that offsets to where it keeps everything in flow,” says Clarence resident Mark Dewell. Read the full story.

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