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Updated: Jun 5, 2023

Back in the 1920’s the government went on a major campaign to encourage farmers to plow up as much ground as they could and plant wheat to feed the masses. They did just that and by 1929, over 100 million acres were under cultivation, exposing the fertile soil below.

Then the winds came and the result was one of the biggest environmental disasters in modern history. The next decade became known as the “Dust Bowl” or as my dad called those years, the “Dirty Thirties”.

Since then a process known as no-till agriculture began to take hold, albeit slowly. Seeds are injected directly into the untilled soil, often with a cover crop in place. Wind erosion virtually stopped across vast swaths of farmland where this technique was employed.

Many farmers are stuck in their old ways, however and because of their stubbornness, a replay occurred a few days ago where the dust kicked up from freshly plowed fields in Central Illinois causing a blackout and a 70 car pileup on Interstate 55, resulting in 7 people dead.

It reminds me of a lyric in a 1955 Pete Seeger song where he writes, “When will we ever learn, when will we ever learn....”

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