Palouse Farmlands and Farmers

Palouse farmers are stewards of some of the richest farmlands on earth. Despite nearly a century of soil loss due to the erosion and runoff that accompanied hillside farming, resulting in the loss of some 40% of Palouse topsoil, Palouse farms are still some of the most productive in the world. Palouse farmers embracing conservation tillage, no-till seeding, strip cropping, CRP, and other conservation practices continue to make meaningful strides in stemming soil loss.

As I watch them working their fields, one drill-width or header-width at a time, I’m reminded of their connection to the divine. Farming is mankind’s original occupation. Genesis tells us that God put the man into the garden “to till it and keep it.” This was before the Fall, a reminder of the beneficial nature of work.  Now, as then, the farmer is utterly dependent upon God for sunshine and rain in the right amounts at the right times. There is no middleman. I admire farmers who recognize this dependence and aren’t ashamed to drop to their knees to ask their heavenly Father for favorable conditions – for His hand for good upon them, to borrow from Ezra.

I am also reminded that in the early days of our country, most of its citizens were farmers of one sort or another. Today, scarcely 2% of Americans farm for a living; these sturdy souls provide food and fiber for all the rest of us, and are instrumental to keeping our standard of living the highest in human history.

I enjoyed several outings this past spring to capture their handiwork, and in August I got to knock an item off my photographic bucket list when I spent an afternoon riding shotgun in Ben Barstow’s combine during wheat harvest. It was an enjoyable and educational immersion into the farmer’s world, and it yielded some fun images – including one of Ben cleaning “dog fennel” from the auger on the header, an image that ended up taking the top prize in McGregor’s photo contest at the Palouse Empire Fair the following month.  Below are some of the pictures from these various shoots. Together, they form a patchwork presentation of the pastoral beauty Palouse farmers experience throughout the year. I hope you enjoy them. Better still, I hope you get to visit the Palouse and capture its beauty yourself!


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