Thursday, January 8, 2009

Flooded Farm

When I was on the train yesterday and, to a lesser extent, when I was in my car (eyes on the road), I noticed just how much farm land gets flooded, not just when river-banks won't hold the rivers but when the ground itself simply gets saturated. Obviously, much farmland is also lowland, so it makes sense that much farmland would be vulnerable to flooding. Nonetheless, the flooding of one's farm has to register way past disappointing, even if you understand the nature of low-lying land, and the work required after the water has withdrawn must seem overwhelming.

(For the short term, if you live in Western Washington or live elsewhere and want to send a dollar or two, Associated Ministries in Tacoma is coordinating many relief-efforts for flooding in general--not just for farmers. And then of course there's also the local Red Cross chapters.)

For the longer term, I wondered to what extent state and federal government entities and/or non-governmental entities take care to preserve farmland, much of which has been paved over or built upon. Even in this post-modern age, we do need things to eat, people to grow them, and land to grow them on/in.

I did discover the American Farmland Trust online:, and I want to learn more about its work. It looks like among their work is the preservation of farmland, not dissimilar to the way the Nature Conservancy simply (or not so simply) buys land to make sure no one develops it. That direct approach appeals to me.

Flooded Farm

When water won't stop rising, when
it rises efficiently, without violence,
and inundates your farm, wrecking
field, barn, equipment, feed; when
it fills up your house and hosts boats
sent to rescue you, you let yourself
loathe the recklessness of nature,
its ruinous spasms, which knock
farm-accounts off-balance and load
your plans with mud. Oh, you'll be back--

to clean up after flood, to stand and stare
in the silted living-room, to get children
and animals resettled. The struggle's
both a losing and continuous one.
But in this flooded moment, the engine
of the rescue-boat belches blue smoke.
Your grandfather, who started the farm,
had it much worse: that's a statement
you've learned to recite automatically.
It doesn't require belief.

Copyright 2008 Hans Ostrom
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