FALLOWIn Constantine, MI, the Seed Corn Capital of the World, it is the fallow season.
The fields are fallow. Snow drifts and dusts and melts in the fields, and then drifts and dusts some more. Some fields are seeded with winter wheat, resting. Some are soil bound snug by peas, green nitrogen, sprouted and decomposing into humus. Some are stubble. Stubble.
Barns lie quiet. Storage barns at Pioneer hold 950,000 bushels of seed corn, remaining from the three million bushels processed, waiting to be ordered, bagged, shipped and planted.
Villa-Miller’s machinery is stored, dry, enclosed for this season while this seed corn farmer spends the fallow season visiting with in-laws in Costa Rica and checking commodities.
But the other barns sleep. They have been sleeping for decades. They sleep the sleep of death.How long can a field lie fallow yet remain waiting, fertile? It can take five hundred to one thousand years for an inch of soil to form.
Yet in one generation, just since the 1980’s, a family seed corn farm's barn can die. They fall along the roads each season, some caught by wind, by fire, by water. First the roof caves, then the beams lean, and finally the gaping doors close on themselves. A final breath and they are gone.
Seeds die to live. They enter the soil’s darkness, and moist, only there can they be born again.
Is it so with barns, with farming?