One By One

Melissa SandfortAgricultural Anthropology

Then: A hand-held corn planter that planted seeds, one by one.
Now: A 24-row drawn planter with consistent, accurate seed spacing, liquid fertilizer pump and delivery system, variable rate drive and insecticide application system.

It was the spring of 1940 and my grandfather had just endured his first year of life in the college of agriculture at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He volunteered his time that summer planting corn test plots for yield and variety testing. And he used this hand-held corn planter, which required the user to take a step, place the planter in the soil with his boot, release a seed and move on to the next spot. One seed at a time.

Then: I have always admired the work, endurance and heart of a farmer. They put in countless, thankless hours of sweat and soul into a field, they battle Mother Nature’s attempts to holster their dreams, and yet they get up every day before dawn to do it all over again in an effort to keep a part of history alive – the farming history that this country was built on.


Now: I still admire the work of a farmer. But after spending a few hours perusing the shelves of grandpa’s “antique farm”, I have come to realize that no book, nor author, can tell the story of the life of a farmer better than taking a look at his hands. And as I write these stories, one by one, my grandfather’s hands are taking me along the roadmap to our past, and the story of what has become our future.

Until our next history lesson…