Courtney reviews the 2019 All Iowa Reads selection!
This Blessed Earth is the 2019 joint selection of the All Iowa Reads and One Book One Nebraska community reading discussion programs (read the selection announcement at https://www.iowacenterforthebook.org/archive/past-years/2018/oct/air). The book follows the seasons of one year on a Nebraska family farm owned by the Hammond family. We witness Rick Hammond, his daughter Meghan, and her fiancé Kyle Galloway as they harvest soybeans, repair equipment, brand calves, and plant corn. They monitor the weather and crop markets, always aware of farming’s risks.
Along with scenes of daily life on the Hammond farm, Genoways presents thorough examinations on a variety of subjects, including the history of U.S. government farm policy, the advent of genetically modified crops, and the technological advances that have resulted in GPS-driven combines and center pivot irrigation. I was surprised to learn Henry Ford’s role in the rise of soybeans as a commodity crop and fascinated by the chapter on seed corn, particularly the lengths to which seed companies go to protect their intellectual property.
Genoways is both a journalist and a poet, so This Blessed Earth features not only articulate coverage of issues related to farming, but also sentences like: “The feed auger corkscrewed the cut plants into the mouth of the combine, where a throbbing set of threshers splintered the dry pods, collecting the oily seeds inside and sending them spiraling up to the grain tank behind Rick’s chair.” The mixture of writing styles, as well as the shifts in focus between the Hammonds’ everyday lives and the larger context of American agriculture, makes reading This Blessed Earth feel like a holistic view of farming.
For great nonfiction writing on a subject that concerns us all, be sure to check out This Blessed Earth.