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The Wheatfield

11 Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6

In 2016, U.S. farmers grew nearly 2.4 billion bushels of wheat on 63 million acres of land. In the United States, one acre of wheat yields an average of around 40 bushels of wheat. About half of the wheat grown in the United States is used domestically. In 2008, the state of Kansas was the largest wheat producer in the United States with North Dakota a close second. Kansas is number one in flour milling in the United States. Kansas produces enough wheat each year to bake 36 billion loaves of bread and enough to feed everyone in the world, over six billion people, for about 2 weeks. An acre of Kansas wheat produces enough bread to feed nearly 9,000 people for one day.

The Wheat Field

From each one in the hard soil a myriad are spun.

Sheaves of gold on bronze in files beneath the sun.
Is it towards the whiteness of the wafer
The field bends on autumn winds;
Towards the body which is breath not flesh
That the body which is only flesh
Scuffs its hands upon the soil,
And fears at night tomorrow’s toil,
And sees in dreams the shade of musk
The trumpets rising in the dusk?

Or is the seed of wheat enough,

Its own bronze parable of blood,
Enorbing in its nucleus
The architecture of the Ark,
God’s constant covenant of bread?

On the Thirtieth Meridian, at the pivot of the Earth,

A fan spreads out in silted twists
Pinned by five gold inches to the river’s wrist,
And clasped by five white fingers of that marble hand.

Between the river’s rise and fall

Its pulse is felt throughout the land,
Its rhythms mimicked by the priests,
Its regulations drawn on dirt
In circles, trisects, lines and cubes
Of numbers and of wheat,
Of incantations scratched on stone
That from their power we may eat
The bread, for we have tasted of the fruit,
And found it, if not sweet, of use
In surveying tombs and gardens that will suit.

The wilderness yields only flesh

Of fruit, or fowl, or hunted beast.
It cannot give us wheat and bread,
And it is bread that we would eat.

Though our bodies be of infirm flesh,

Our thoughts enslaved to blood and heat;
Though we scan the skies with eyes of beasts,
Still we would walk in fields of wheat,
And from such sheaves deduce the laws
Of war and wealth and God, and pause
To build our towns and temples, paved streets,
And gird the very globe with grids,
And make our maps and take our measures,
And populate the final stars with our myriad
Grown from one, in the harsh soil, our single treasure.

12 Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. Psalm 85

Images from “The Reckoning” by ELLIOT ROSS

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • WiscoDave October 14, 2017, 1:54 PM

    It’s a simple and pure relationship with the land. The toil is the same, good year or bad. Some of the finest, and hardest, people I know are family farmers.
    Man plants, God grants.

  • ghostsniper October 14, 2017, 5:39 PM

    I wanna drive a combine.

    • gwbnyc December 7, 2021, 4:04 PM

      in NC, don’t see it anymore, when a piece of machinery quit it was liable to be left in its tracks. not unusual to see one in the middle of a field, the cab packed with growing vegetation.

      • ghostsniper December 8, 2021, 4:43 AM

        4 years later and I still wanna drive one.

        • gwbnyc December 8, 2021, 7:22 AM

          YOU LIVE!!

  • LMT October 14, 2017, 8:09 PM

    Credit where it’s due, absolutely. And wheat farmers have done even better than we know. A bit of NASA trivia:

    Under intense artificial lighting at 4 times the typical outdoor brightness, the farmer’s common artificially-selected wheat species (Triticum aestivum L.) does something amazing: it produces a yield that’s over 3 times greater than the world’s best outdoor wheat yield, or about 6 times greater than the outdoor yield of the runner-up species, the potato. One high-intensity acre of wheat can make an astonishing 40,000 loaves. To imagine that, pace off 70 yards, imagine the square, and then imagine the loaf stack.

    And no yield limit has yet been established. Even higher yield should be possible under even more intense lighting, and with a bit of hydroponic fine-tuning.

    Much research is done to improve the yield of plants in off-world gardens, but past research shows that wheat is already primed – already evolved – for the off-world jump. It will feed multitudes beyond Earth, efficiently.

    Ref. Bugbee & Salisbury 1988, “Exploring the Limits of Crop Productivity”.

  • Casey Klahn October 14, 2017, 10:28 PM

    Nice report, Gerard. I married the farmer’s daughter, and we live in the wheat-producingest place in the US. Taken by county, that is.

    There are other bread-baskets in the world, like Ukraine, Australia and Argentina. US farmers lead the way in innovation and productivity. American farmers are as smart and innovative as any industry you can name; the things I’ve witnessed done by my in laws would amaze you. They build parts and tools from scratch in their shops, and *make* stuff work. Everything is modified, and improved. Yields go up, labor per acre goes down, and larger acreage is now handled by fewer men.

    BTW, that’s a barley head in that last frame.

  • Ten October 15, 2017, 1:00 AM

    “Much research is done to improve the yield of plants in off-world gardens, but past research shows that wheat is already primed – already evolved – for the off-world jump. It will feed multitudes beyond Earth, efficiently.”

    Spare us that rot again. Space is hard vacuum, terminally irradiated, will zero-grav you to death, and obviously lacking anything needed for life. Given that it’s also socialism for scientists and fraught with special interest, why is the right so mindlessly infatuated with it?

  • bob sykes October 15, 2017, 4:00 AM

    This year Russia is once again the world’s leading wheat exporter.

  • Snakepit Kansas October 15, 2017, 4:28 AM

    I love the photos. That is often what a big Kansas sky looks like. Right now, the winter wheat is coming up to a few inches high and turning the plowed fields bright green.

  • Howard Nelson October 15, 2017, 7:05 AM

    Nice, nice homage to farmer, field of plenty, and Founder.
    May we be deserving and grateful.

  • pbird October 15, 2017, 8:40 AM

    Unfortunately, wheat is not really good food for humans. But we keep eating it and getting fatter and sicker. That said, yes, the farmers are great innovators and workers.

  • Missy October 15, 2017, 1:38 PM

    Beautiful extension of the metaphor.

  • Jewel Atkins October 15, 2017, 8:06 PM

    The happiest memory I have is riding the combine around the ‘front yard’ with my husband in Northern Montana. We were in our early 20s. He was tanned, with hair the color of the wheat he was harvesting. We were much poorer then, but damn, the scenery was so much better.

  • LMT October 17, 2017, 3:42 PM

    “Much research is done to improve the yield of plants in off-world gardens, but past research shows that wheat is already primed – already evolved – for the off-world jump. It will feed multitudes beyond Earth, efficiently.”

    “Spare us that rot again. Space is hard vacuum, terminally irradiated, will zero-grav you to death, and obviously lacking anything needed for life. Given that it’s also socialism for scientists and fraught with special interest, why is the right so mindlessly infatuated with it?”

    When the farmer moves, he doesn’t plant wheat en route, as in deep-space zero-g, amidst cosmic rays. He plants at the destination; for example, beneath an artificial geomagnetic shield,

    beneath clear water-sky,

    sans irradiation,

    on Mars.

    https://launchforth.io/LakeMatthewTeam/artificial-geomagnetic-field-to-protect-an-inhabited-mars-facility-from-cosmic-rays/

    • Fletcher Christian December 8, 2021, 7:36 AM

      Or inside a spinning habitat, as envisaged by Gerard O’Neill in the early 1980s.

  • gwbnyc December 7, 2021, 3:44 PM

    40 years ago.
    I put the camera/tripod on my brother’s pickup bed and hit the timer.
    That’s my mother’s property as it was her father’s, now mine. I have her name.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6c0bcbe713b02ebc3473c6abd0b6377882d6416ff9d85493536f2ca3c198e048.jpg

    I’m the Sam Clemens clone on the end, now the last standing.

    • ghostsniper December 8, 2021, 4:46 AM

      corn?

      • gwbnyc December 8, 2021, 7:50 AM

        Aye.

        At the top of the foto between my brother and I was the original brick-ended house from 1750, built on a creek for purposes of transportation. Long-established churches in the area are often next to a creek. It was razed when I was about ten.

        It can be seen (usually) by searching “Walton House Gates County NC” . The lane running on the right side of the foto meets the highway behind camera and is still noted on some maps as “Walton’s Crossroad”- about a mile north of Mitchell’s Fork and 3/4’s of a mile west of Muddy Cross.

  • Zaphod December 7, 2021, 5:41 PM

    The daughter seems to favour the Old Gods.

  • Mike-SMO December 7, 2021, 11:12 PM

    pbird: People actually eat the stuff? It is glorified “crab grass”. I thought that it was all for the yeast and vitamins in bread and beer. And, of course, the raw material for meat production.

    Russia is in the game as the weather and the Kulaks allow. Maybe more now, through the next climate cycle. If Putin’s Pals don’t screw things up, again.

    Closer to home, maybe the Lefties will realize how much carbon is needed to plant, fertilize, irrigate, harvest, process, transport all that grain. Cut off those intermediates and people will go hungry. There is lots, since “we” do lots. Mother Nature doesn’t care if you starve. The farmer and his family have an important role in our prosperity.

  • Nepeta December 8, 2021, 1:02 AM

    Abracadabra! This is that poem, Gerard.
    Top notch, its thrust isn’t at all what’s remained in my brain cell (blame that on allusive overload.) What you pull from that hat of yours demands abiding admiration. Thanks a mil for granting a years-long wish for reacquaintance with this.

  • OneGuy December 8, 2021, 7:17 AM

    Wheat and rice! It is doubtful we could have 8 billion people living today without them. A lot of wheat hate in the comments. Undeserved! But to each his own.

    • Mike Austin December 8, 2021, 11:15 AM

      I am a gourmet bread baker and Chinese food cook. My Kung Pao Chicken is the best in Oklahoma City. So there you have it: wheat and rice. True, a lot of people have something against those humble grains—keto, carbs and such—and write about them as if they were enemies of humanity. The Roman legions marched on bread, and every soldier carried in his knapsack enough grain for a campaign. On a diet of wheat they conquered the world. The Romans were a serious people, and I reckon that they had no time for our modern nonsense and hypochondria about “low-carb diets” and such.

      Carbs and “gluten free” are entirely confected and imaginary ills, made for a people who substitute Netflix and video games for truly adventuresome and meaningful lives.

      • ghostsniper December 8, 2021, 7:03 PM

        James Dakins over at bison prep swears by wheat. He’s says there no less expensive way to gain calories than with wheat berries. I don’t disagree.

        http://bisonprepper.blogspot.com/

  • Amy December 8, 2021, 10:43 AM

    Oh, my man Stan, sings of farming the fields

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIpQybhY4aM

  • G706 December 8, 2021, 11:21 AM

    Sold my wheat for $9.00 per bushel in August, now is worth over $10. Last year I got $4.75. That is soft white delivered to the Temco terminal in Portland, Oregon. Our wheat in the Wilamette Valley can yield well over 100 bushels per acre.

  • Gordon Scott December 8, 2021, 12:53 PM

    $9 per bushel? That’s great, G706. I was once standing in the yard of my Ag Econ professor. A guy pulled up with a grain truck nearly overflowing with some sort of dry beans. I guess Michigan, which grows a lot of that, had flooding that year.

    The driver was talking to the professor. “I wanted you to see a load worth more than the truck it’s in.”

  • G706 December 9, 2021, 9:27 AM

    Wheat and the rest of American agriculture runs on Petroleum and urea fertilizer. The price of urea has gone from $400 per ton to over $1100, but more troubling is that the supply is uncertain. This is the time of year when I would prepay some of my fertilizer for the next season to lock in the price, either in December or January depending on tax planning, but not this year. The local dealer cannot guarantee supply or price for 2022. At least I can say I don’t have to worry about making the combine payment on my 45 year old machine.

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