In 1950, 15 percent of Americans lived on farms. Today, that is barely 1 percent. So for many of us, the annual gamble of spring planting is a remote and almost exotic experience. ALL THINGS CONSIDERED has been following one Iowa farm family - Craig and LaVon Griffieon of Ankeny, Iowa - through a year on their farm. Recently, the Griffieon have been sowing seeds. Craig is planting the family's 800 acres and several hundred acres owned by neighbors, and LaVon in gardens next to the farmhouse.

The Griffieon story comes to us from John Biewen of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Mr. CRAIG GRIFFIEON (Farmer): We started planting this field of corn yesterday. There's about 113 acres in it, and we got about 99 of it done yesterday. And we'll finish other 13 or so acres up this morning and then move to another field.

(Soundbite of beeping)

(Soundbite of engine)

Mr. GRIFFIEON: A planter like this new, runs somewhere around 60,000 to $70,000 or so. This planter's 12 a row and they're 30 inches apart, and we're planting approximately between 31 and 32,000 seeds per acre. And an acre would be a football field, to give people an idea how big an acre is. And each one of that individual row units is dropping a seed about every seven to eight inches apart.

(Soundbite of engine)

Ms. LaVON GRIFFIEON (Farmer): We're way behind. It's been such a cool, damp spring. But when it goes, it goes fast. This is where Craig's grandmother's garden used to be, out in the backyard. And we have these six little garden boxes over here that we've mixed some horse manure, peat moss and vermiculite in, and it's going to be organic.

Mr. GRIFFIEON: I guess the thing is that we - you know, you never know about is that if it turns off cold for a week here and that soil temperature would drop 50 - or below 50 degrees down to 40, then the seed probably won't germinate. But more than likely, it'll stay warm from this point on. So what I'd tell LaVon all the time, it's like going to Vegas, but it takes nine months to get your results.

(Soundbite of engine)

Mr. GRIFFIEON: Right now, we're driving south. We're going to what we call the south place.

Ms. GRIFFIEON: This is where Craig's great-great-grandparents - or my kid's great-great-grandparents homesteaded. And on the horizon is lots of houses that weren't here five years ago, and they just steadily creep north.

Mr. GRIFFIEON: They all look the same. There's nothing different about them.

(Soundbite of engine, doors closing)

Ms. GRIFFIEON: We like on a farm that, when I married my husband, was three miles north of Ankeny, which is a suburb that's just north of Des Moines. We are now surrounded on three sides of our farm with subdivisions. Our neighbors to the south sold for $23,000 an acre, and we have a neighbor to the east of us that sold for $45,800 an acre, I think. He got a dollar a square foot. We own, our family - not just Craig and I, but family members - own about 800 acres. And some people think I should cash in my chips and become a millionaire, but I don't know that many rich people that are happy. And my kids are pretty well grounded in agriculture, and they want to have a future here. And as long they want to do it, I will be here to make sure that the city honors the boundaries that - around this farm. This is a farm, and it's going to remain a farm.

Mr. GRIFFIEON: I love farming, and it's provided us with food on the table, and this farm has been in my family for over 100 years. And I just, you know, I'm happy where I'm at, and I guess the money doesn't mean that much.

ADAMS: Craig Griffieon and his wife LaVon of Ankeny, Iowa.

Our series on the farm families produced by John Biewen of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, with recording help from Rob Dillard of Iowa Public Radio.

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