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October 1, 2014

Homework Help: English

Posted by Mohammad on Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 8:54pm.

ms. sue you please help me with story questions? if you have time then this be story

Field of Broken Dreams by Sharon Butala

My memories of drives in the country when I was a child in the 1940s and early 1950s, after the devastation of the 1930s, are of abandoned farmstead after abandoned farmstead, of frame farmhouses, wooden livestock sheds and optimistic hip-roofed barns collapsing slowly in their few acres of waist-high wild grasses, all of this surrounded by rows of overgrown carragana hedges and dying poplars and firs, and finished by a gap-toothed, tipsy fence lurching through wildflowers along the roadside.

Then we thought such farmsteads picturesque and charming; as children we knew little of the suffering they commemorated. None of us understood that in many areas of the province, these vestiges of someone's distastrous past would hold the last relics of prairie biodiversity. They were places where birds might nest undisturbed, where wild animals -- skunks, rabbits, porcupines, weasels, foxes, badgers, gophers, mice, all kinds of insects and frogs, snakes, and deer and hunting coyotes -- might find refuge from the noisy and relentless agricultural machinery, from the death-dealing chemicals, and from the monocrops of cereals where there was no place to hide from predators or to raise their young in safety, and where their natural diets, and thus the ecological cycle, had been destroyed.

Refuge too, could be found in the unplowed and wild road allowances between farms, and in the grounds of the no-longer used schoolhouses, and the areas too hilly or rocky for the farming equipment of the day. Bluffs (as we call clumps of trees on the prairies) dotted the farmers' fields not so many years ago, providing shelter, food and nesting places. Where the land was wet -- the sloughs, ponds and boggy areas -- a farmer might shake his head in exasperation, but he had no choice but to farm around them and leave the beaver, muskrat, ducks, geese, wild swans and herons to their natural places in nature.

The land was beautiful then, both the treed parkland areas in central Saskatchewan where I was raised, and the fabulous and astonishing grasslands in the southwest corner of Saskatchewan where at the age of 36 I came to live. Then Saskatchewan was a paradise of natural beauty, full of wild animals and birds, in winter where the acres of snow and ice would catch the light and glow like burnished jewels, or where the fields of grass in summer would record in moving shadow all the changes of the wild sky, and shimmer and bow and sing softly with every breeze.

It was a paradise. As anyone who has lived in it knows, beauty is a requirement of the human soul. And in it is to be found truth and peace and awe -- awe as the way into the world of spirit, an approach to the Creator -- and the emotion on which the soul feeds in order to grow.

This last few months it would be impossible not to know that we're in the middle of an agricultural crisis, this one caused by globalization subsidies resulting in the demise of the family farm: while Europe supports its wheat farmers with subsidies of more than $5 a bushel, Ottawa provides about 40 cents. Over the past three generations, the number of farms in my province has fallen steadily, from 142,000 in the 1936 census to less than 60,000 now.

It's never a pretty sight to watch people go bankrupt. But now many are telling the story of how in late middle age they've lost everything after a lifetime of work that chiefly benefited others. The small family farm is being wiped out of existence to be replaced by monster enterprises where no birds sing. What nobody is saying is that along with the human tragedies, the corporatization of Western farms, their growth into vast acreages, means the virtual wiping out of what little biodiversity is left out here, as well of destruction of that soul-stirring beauty.

As the years have passed, markets grown more competitive, farms have had to get bigger and bigger to survive. This has meant that farm machinery has also gotten bigger in order that, given our short growing season, a farmer can get all his land seeded rapidly in spring and harvested before the first snowfall. Bigger means clumsier, so that going around old farmsteads or unused country schoolhouses on one's land, or squeezing by the old windbreaks planted by settlers long gone is a major irritation, as is any acre of land (or square foot) judged to be "unproductive" in terms of saleable monocrops. And so old buildings are bulldozed, burned and buried, windbreaks uprooted and carted away, the sites smoothed over as if there'd never been anything there. The following spring they're seeded to crop. Wetland is drained and filled too, and road allowances plowed and seeded.

Thus, both plant and animal biodiversity is lost, along with the natural beauty that is the precious inheritance of all of us. But even more that is essential to our human destiny is lost. When all the small farmers are gone there will be no one left, except for those few Amerindian people living in the traditional manner, who understands how nature works in an intimate, personal, daily way over a small piece of ground. This is wisdom gleaned slowly over generations, for the most part never expressed coherently nor in writing, and thus, not saved in any way accessible to the rest of us.

Never mind scientists: The humble ones have always admitted that their knowledge gleaned in laboratories or controlled studies on carefully engineered pieces of land could never match the wisdom of a First Nations elder or an old farmer who'd spent his life in one place in the countryside. Never mind the new environmentalists, mostly raised in the city, whose knowledge about land tends to be acquired in universities or by hearsay. Or if this environmentalist lives in the country he's likely to have retired there, with money in the bank; he doesn't need to know his land and the seasons and the weather patterns over it the way a small farmer or a rancher needs to know his.

Here is perhaps the most potent reason of all to save small-scale farms: because those who farmed in this way had the time to ponder and enjoy and be instructed and inspired by nature. In their close daily encounters with nature, month after month, year after year, they came to know their few acres of earth with such loving intensity that it approached the mystical -- although they'd never say so out loud.

When there's no one left out here except people whose days on the land are spent 20 feet off the ground in the air-conditioned cabs of tractors so massive they dwarf the shacks in which a lot of prairie people were raised, when there isn't a scrap of native grass left, or any more bluffs of trees, who will remember how to be on the land -- as Native people know, as old, small-scale farmers and ranchers know? Who will remember how to listen to land?

The growing of vast acreages of crops and the global scramble for markets and money that benefits only a few costs the rest of us our birthright as members of the human race. It is a cost far too high for any nation to pay.

For land is still the source of our species and the place to which we return in death.

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