On The Farm In Iowa: A Feeling Of  "This Too Shall Pass"

Iowa map
Iowa map

The markets are in turmoil. Don't even bother looking at your 401k (now jokingly referred to as a 201k). Retirement is overrated, anyhow.

Given all this, how refreshing to be back in Iowa! Yes, corn and soybean prices have plummeted from record highs this summer, and some farmers worry that credit will be harder to get when they go asking for loans to fund spring planting. But right now, it's harvest time.

And while there was some troublesome weather earlier, the soybean crop is only a little light, and corn may be ok. It would've been nice to lock in prices for the whole crop back in July when corn was $7.88 a bushel, instead of $4 and change right now, but, oh well, who knew?

I'm writing this while eating at the Lone Star Steakhouse in Waterloo. One young woman is leaving, and her friends are calling out, "Have fun at Wal-Mart!" Now THAT is America.

This week I showed up again at the Hoffman family farm here. John Hoffman is President of the American Soybean Association, but he also grows corn. His extended family usually congregates at the home of his parents, Darlene and Ray.

That's where I was Monday. Turns out, it was "annual soup night", held every year on John's grandfather's birthday. "Grandpa Ray" would have been 108 this year. Why honor him with soup? It just became easier to serve soup over the years as more and more people showed up to celebrate. Plus, this being harvest time, it's a good meal to serve in shifts.

So, as I dug into a bowl of homemade vegetable beef stew, I asked about Grandpa Ray (who passed away some years ago). He was born in 1900 under mysterious circumstances, and adopted as a baby. His adoptive parents died when he was 5, and he spent the next few years with an uncle who didn't particularly care for him. Then, at age 9, he heard that a farm couple with no children were looking for a son. He went down to the saloon where he met the man and offered himself up. The man took him home, where Ray eventually won over the woman. Six years later, at the age of 15, he signed his own adoption papers and legally became their son, a Hoffman.

Can you imagine what that's like for a kid? I asked, "How did those experiences shape his character?" "He was the sweetest man you would ever know," I was told. Times were different then. You did what you had to do and there was no point in spending too much time feeling sorry for yourself.

Seeing all of his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, you can't argue with the results. "He was the glue that held this family together," says John's mom. Crises come and go. People like Grandpa Ray soldier on. He would probably look at the current economic situation and just shrug his shoulders. This, too, shall pass.