A Victim Of Farm Transformation

Jun 4, 2018

As a kid, one of my chores was delivering water to livestock in the field. I would drive a tractor pulling the water wagon out to a distant pasture. While the water slowly emptied into the field tank in the stillness of the setting sun, I would listen for the distant bobwhite quail in the hedgerows.

At one time, most of the Midwestern fields were surrounded with Osage Orange hedgerows. The bramble provided a natural fence as well as an ecosystem that included quail that were drawn to the cover.

Farms were once diversified in field crops, livestock and poultry. The shelter of the hedgerows provided for a variety of wildlife that included bobwhite, pheasants, fox, and a variety of birds. 

After World War II, bulldozers began to appear across the rural landscape, “grubbing out” the hedge rows -- displacing and driving the bobwhite quail to near extinction. By tearing out the hedge as well as woven wire fence lines, the diverse landscape was transformed into factory fields.

The small, gentle bobwhite was one of the first to suffer when agriculture began its transformation from a culture of land and nature stewardship to an agri-business that treated land as a commodity. Instead of diversification, our farms became mile after mile of uninterrupted sterility.

The loss of the bobwhite matters, because it represents the loss of a culture.

I’m Dan Kenney, and this is my perspective.