MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
Late winter on an Iowa farm is a time for taking stock, for assessing last year's growing season and preparing for spring. For the farm family we've been covering all year, the Griffieons, it's time to think about future generations on the farm. Craig and LaVon Griffieon grow corn, soybeans and raise livestock on 1,100 acres near Ankeny, Iowa, not far from Des Moines.
In our final story in the series, Craig and LaVon also revisit their debate over how they farm. Craig uses chemicals and genetically modified seeds. LeVon prefers to farm organically. Our story was produced by John Biewen of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
Mr. CRAIG GRIFFIEON: Turn the fire up a little bit.
Ms. AUTUMN OGDEN: I think it's hot enough that you want to pound it like you…
Mr. GRIFFIEON: We're working on an old wagon gear is what we're doing. Autumn's heating it up with the torch. We're trying to pull it apart to make it longer. I'm Craig Griffieon, and I farm north Ankeny.
Ms. OGDEN: Autumn Ogden. I'm 25 years old, and I work on my parents' farm.
Mr. GRIFFIEON: A couple of good whacks.
(Soundbite of whacking)
Mr. GRIFFIEON: We're going to build a chicken coop on top of it. And then we're going to have a portable chicken coop next summer to put the chickens that lay eggs. And then that way we can move them around on the pasture.
Ms. OGDEN: This will just have a screen bottom in it. So all the manure will just fall right out the bottom. We're not going to have to clean the chicken house all summer long.
(Soundbite of laughter)
(Soundbite of crunching footsteps)
Mr. GRIFFIEON: It's really been a roller coaster ride all summer. And we went from $3 corn last January to $7 and $8 corn in July and August. And now we're back down to about $3 corn again. I think our net income's going to be up around $100,000. We were lucky enough that the crop inputs didn't raise until this last summer, and of course all of our inputs for this last year were already bought by summer. And so, of course, we sold the grain at a higher price. So we came out better this year than we've had in the past.
Ms. LAVON GRIFFIEON: It was an incredibly wet year. So people who really are good at gardening did not have good luck in Iowa this year. We harvested our little patch of organic corn, and I think it got sorted off into a separate bin, and we're feeding that to our chickens and animals. So we just keep looking at different things to do with that little organic patch.
Mr. GRIFFIEON: It's like LaVon said. We're looking a little bit more chemical-free-type grains, corn and soybeans, maybe upping the acres a little bit and trying some different things to see if it works a little better, but there's still some resistance there.
Ms. GRIFFIEON: He likes to do what's easy and what's habit for him, but we keep having the conversation. I think he sees the light.
Mr. GRIFFIEON: I think the way we farm now is probably going to have to change. I think we're probably going to go back to smaller - probably smaller equipment and maybe smaller farms. I guess if we divide it up, and each kid, you know, ends up with X number of acres, they probably won't need the bigger equipment because they won't have as many acres to farm.
But hopefully that what they'll be raising will be a value added-type crop, or they will be getting more money for that crop that where they can afford to not have to farm as many acres.
(Soundbite of clanging)
Ms. OGDEN: Do you think I need to heat that collar up?
Mr. GRIFFIEON: I'd heat around the collar because that front part of the collar…
Ms. OGDEN: Is rubbing (unintelligible).
Mr. GRIFFIEON: And it's probably where a lot of the rust is.
Ms. OGDEN: You know, every day that you're on the farm, you can see something that the other, that the previous five generations have added and how that kept up with the time period, too. And it's interesting now because it's almost like I want to take a step back in time and have a more diversified farm, you know, that was more typical to Iowa in the 1920s, probably, than it is today.
Mr. GRIFFIEON: So, you ready to try it again?
Ms. OGDEN: I think so.
(Soundbite of whacking)
SIEGEL: Our farm series was produced by John Biewen of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University with help from Rob Dillard of Iowa Public Radio. You can hear earlier stories from the series at our Web site, npr.org.