Dan Kenney

Perspective: The Death Of Small Family Farms

Oct 14, 2019
James Baltz / Unsplash

"In America, the big get bigger and the small go out," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

Perdue made these comments at the World Dairy Expo in Madison Wisconsin, which touts itself as America's Dairyland and has lost 551 dairy farms in 2019 and a total of 1,654 dairy farms lost since January of 2017. More than one farm a day for the last three years. It has become so serious that Wisconsin’s legislature's finance committee voted unanimously last month to spend an additional $200,000 to help struggling farmers deal with depression and mental health problems.

Perspective: First, Listen. Always.

Sep 9, 2019
Gerd Altmann / Pixabay

“First, shut up and listen.” 



“If people don’t ask for help leave them alone.”  

Perspective: Thousands Will Lose Benefits

Aug 5, 2019
Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Editor's note: The audio portion of this Perspective is incorrect in the number of Americans who are food-insecure. The correct number is 1 in 8, which was in the original script.  

“I’ve never done this before,” a woman tells me as I help her sign up for food assistance at the Grow Mobile pop-up pantry. “My husband has been ill, and I had to quit my job to take care of him.” One of millions of stories. 


Perspective: I've Never Seen A Spring Like This

Jul 1, 2019
Dan Kenney


“I’ve been farming 60 years and I’ve never seen anything like it.” A farmer said this to me recently. He was discussing the wet cold spring which prevented planting of corn at its normal time. 

Keturah Moller / Pixabay

More than 660,000 American soldiers have been killed in battle since the birth of our Country. Each year on Memorial Day we pause to remember those who have died in protection of our American Ideals: The ideals of democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality. Yet, the protection of these ideals goes beyond the battlefield to all of us. 

Abraham Lincoln warned. “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

“Only when the last tree has died, the last river been poisoned, and the last fish been caught, will we realize we cannot eat money.”  -- A Cree Tribe Proverb from 350 years ago.   


Perspective: Government Debt? Blame The Poor

Mar 18, 2019
Linus Bohman / CC by 2.0

“It’s like they don’t want us to get ahead.” An African-American friend said that to me recently as I gave her and her son a ride so they did not have to stand in the cold March chill waiting for a bus.

As a single mother with two children she struggles to keep food on their table. Her teenage daughter found a $9 an hour part-time job trying to save a little for college, and then the household was hit with a cut in benefits.

A common story with those who struggle to get above the poverty line if they try to get ahead a little only to get pushed back down.

Perspective: We Need Civics, Not Politics

Feb 8, 2019

We were told the recent State of the Union speech would unify the nation. Yet, even as the speech was being given, hateful tweets were flying in all directions. 

Perspective: The Conversation We Avoid

Dec 31, 2018

It is the season of giving. Every year the holidays bring an abundance of generosity. We talk about toy drives, food drives, and free turkeys.  

A conversation we should be having is how to ensure our neighbors aren’t poor. We should be asking questions about why when there is more food distribution than ever before the need continues to grow.  


Turning Food Deserts Into Food Destinations

Nov 26, 2018



What's A Community Food Center?

Oct 22, 2018
Susan Stephens / WNIJ


What if we create a ‘Community Food Center’ in DeKalb County? 


People And Nature Carry On

Sep 19, 2018


The Haves And The Have-Nots

Aug 13, 2018


“There are the haves and the have-nots.”

“The rich get richer while the poor get poorer.”

These are a few of the sayings I heard from my parents growing up in a small rural farming community. Expressions my working class parents who never finished grade school used to help themselves understand and accept their positions.


Lost Children In A Lost Nation

Jul 9, 2018

“Dad when are you coming to get me?”

The father put the phone down, unable to speak. His sobs choked his voice.

He sat in his one room house deep in Mexico after being separated from his daughter at the border and deported.

We have all seen the photos by now. Children of all ages trying to sleep fully clothed in wire cages under aluminum foil. Some curled up in balls of terror. Others sobbing in the dark. Little ones crying out for their mother.

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.

Farming Isn't What It Used To Be

Apr 25, 2018

My father was born into a farm family in 1908. The land was worked with horses. His day went sunrise to sunset.

As a farmer, he never owned his own land but share-cropped with land owners. By the time I was in eighth grade in 1965, he was working nights as a watchman so he would have enough money to keep farming.

At the time, the Secretary of Agriculture toured the country telling farmers, “Get big, or get out.” My father got out, sold his farming equipment, and we moved into a little ranch house in town. He went to work as a truck driver in a small-town factory.  

We Need To Go To The Source

Mar 19, 2018

“Where are all these babies coming from?” the villagers asked as they pulled babies from the stream.

Every day there were more babies to be rescued, so they built special equipment to pull the babies from the water and hired people to care for them.

They struggled to feed them. And, even though the number continued to increase, they never went upstream to see where all the babies were coming from.

Dealing With The Issue Of Hunger

Feb 12, 2018

“My mother keeps our food locked in a cupboard. We can’t eat when we are hungry or we will run out of food before the end of the month.”

“You know what we had to eat last night? Just a cold can of pork-n-beans. Just ate them right from the can. We couldn’t pay our gas bill so our stove is turned off.”

Just two of the stories I have heard from children over my years of teaching and working on hunger relief in DeKalb County as the founder of DeKalb County Community Gardens.

How Will We Shape History In 2018?

Jan 8, 2018

We live during unpredictable times.

These are days of worry and stress for our family’s well-being, our community’s safety and development, our state’s ability to pull itself out of the financial ditch, and for our country’s dignity and democracy.

We also live under the dark cloud of fear because of two itchy fingered leaders with atomic bomb buttons on their desks.

During these times we also are challenged to maintain hope and motivation to work toward progressive change.

What Effect Will Your Gift Have?

Dec 4, 2017

It is the season of giving. There are toy and coat drives, canned food collections and many ways to give to others.

It feels good to be able to give to others.  What could possibly be wrong with giving to those who we see as less fortunate?

Know What Keeps You Grounded

Oct 30, 2017

Only a red streak remained on the western horizon. A cold breeze tugged at my ragged coat collar. From a distance, a soft warm yellow light came through the kitchen window. Inside, my mother was standing at the stove preparing supper.

We Must Want To End Poverty

Sep 25, 2017

In a recent meeting of individuals who coordinate evening meals for Hope Haven, DeKalb County’s homeless shelter, we were told they are in need of 60 to 70 meals every night.

I was 11 years old in 1964 when President Lyndon Johnson declared a “War on Poverty.” Twenty-two years later Comic Relief was launched to end homelessness. 

You've Got To Be Taught ...

Aug 21, 2017

Hate has always been a part of the human experience. But why do people hate other people just because of the color of their skin, their religion, or their sexual orientation?

Children are not born with hate in their hearts. My three-year-old granddaughter did not hate other people; she hated naps and broccoli. 

I grew up in a small town of 3,000 white people. I cannot remember when I first saw someone with skin of a different color than mine, yet I am deeply disturbed by racism. 

Dan Kenney

Aug 17, 2017

Dan Kenney is a retired elementary school teacher. He is also the founder and director of DeKalb County Community Gardens.

He serves on the City of DeKalb Citizens' Environmental Commission, #Proudly DeKalb Committee, and the Barb Food Mart board of directors. Dan also is a co-convener of the DeKalb County Local Food Security Council and a director with the DeKalb County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Who Are Your Neighbors?

Jul 17, 2017

One cold November morning, I watched from our kitchen as tractor after tractor drove up our driveway. Pick-up trucks pulling wagons followed. About 12 neighboring farmers were coming to harvest our corn, because my father was ill and could not work in the fields that fall.

My father did not ask for their help. The neighbors knew about his health problems, and they just organized the rescue harvest on their own. Without their caring, our crop -- and our income for the entire year -- would have been lost.

What Do You Know About Your Food?

Jun 12, 2017

I remember standing in the dark damp basement of our old farmhouse. My mother would send me down at supper time to bring up a jar of green beans.

My eyes scanned the glass jars along the old weathered wood shelves. There were jars of corn, tomatoes, beets, homemade ketchup, and pickles. I spotted the green beans packed in tight with strips of bacon -- bacon from one of our hogs raised on the farm.

One of my other chores was to gather eggs. I always entered the chicken coop with trepidation, hoping not to have an encounter with a hen determined to guard her egg.