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Talking It Over -- Listen to the corn growing

Driving through the country on these warm summer days, you can almost hear the corn grow. You can definitely see the growth each day especially in the irrigated fields. These fields are glorious in their beauty and rich green colors. Now the tassles are reaching up to crown the stalks with a royal touch. Before we know it, the fruit will emerge in stately fashion.

Over the last few weeks, I have been working with an area farmer who asked me to help him record his life story. Noah Nohl will turn 90 in August and his one desire was to pass on his memories to his family and friends.

Listening to him talk about farming methods in the 1930s and '40s is almost unbelievable. He describes hitching up teams of horses to drive the wagons, thrashers and plows. Farmers and their young children would walk along behind, breaking off ears of corn and tossing them into the wagons. A job that was often done before heading off to school for the day, then continued late at night and restarted early the next day.

He describes buying acres of land and having a concern about the distance from the home farm because of the time needed for hauling and caring for the horses. The small grain was cut, set in bundles and later thrashed. Time wasn't always on their side, with ripening taking place almost faster than they could finish the fields.

The changes over the years have been astounding. Not only in the size of equipment but also in the seed, fertilizer and weed control. Fields today look so lush, probably because the rows and plants are close together with minimal weed problems.

I can recall the corn fields from my younger days. The rows were far enough apart so that a tractor and cultivator could get through a couple times a year. Then for really bad weed problems, especially thistle and mustard, the entire family) would walk down the rows and hoe out the bad plants and strive to keep the good.

In my estimation, the biggest and possibly best change in farming comes in the seed genetics. It would have once been impossible to spray your fields for weeds with products such as Round-up without killing off everything else. Now the plants are resistant so weeds can be killed while saving the precious crop.

This has enabled the narrow rows and close planting. It has also pretty much eliminated the need to cultivate. Spraying can be done early, not only for weeds but also for bugs. Even Mother Nature can be bypassed to some degree with irrigation systems to keep plants alive and growing during dry spells.

There have definitely been many changes over the years and I have to say that they have pretty much all been good changes. The land that continues to feed much of the world can now feed so many more. As we watch and listen to those crops growing, we can imagine it as a hymn of praise and thankfulness to the circumstances that have brought us to this point.