•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Plowshares


Sunset Ridge Farm is a working dairy farm. The quantity of milk a cow can produce is astounding. One really good Holstein milked twice daily can produce 50,000 to over 60,000 lbs of milk in a year. Of course milk is not all these great animals produce, and farms have many cows. As you can imagine, the farmyard around a dairy barn has, to say the least, a "lived-in" look and smell and feel, and it must be "managed" daily. It is quaint, only at a distance. Up close amid the muck, the beauty of these dairy barns tells of the joyful engagement in long, hard labor. Please don't snicker.

For the past weeks the owner of Sunset Ridge Farm and his laborer have been harvesting the corn crop. From what I've seen it's just the two of them. They are cutting, hauling, and processing for the silos the many, many fields of corn surrounding the farmstead. They have a lot of cows to feed. Unlike so many silos in the area, these silos are used. I watched a few days ago as the ground-up greens from the corn harvest were fed from the harvesting wagon into a large funnel attached to a motor that sucked them in and blew them up the tube or duct that hangs by the side of the silo and into the belly of the beast where the silage will ferment.

Out in the field the owner loads the corn greens into wagons which grind them into fine salad. At the other end is the silo swallowing everything fed to it. Throughout the morning and afternoon the laborer goes between, picking up wagons and setting them to empty into the silos, and the owner cuts corn and loads wagons. I've been there to shoot at both dawn and dusk; they're up with the rooster, and they're still processing silage until the sun sets. Meanwhile cows must be moved between pastures and milked and the muck must be mucked. Sometimes the owner and his hand switch to other tasks and our paths cross. The owner always stops to talk. He'll offer shooting suggestions or stories about the farm's history or expound on the beauty of the day and the land.

I've only taken a few photos that give any real sense of the size of some of the silos. This photo isn't one. The largest silos quickly dwarf any farmer's house should he have built it nearby. Of course, as suggested in yesterday's TODAY'S, for me this picture isn't really about silos.