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A farmer’s life from Eastern Colorado:

A farmer’s life from Eastern Colorado:  For days, we rode on, seeing nothing but horizon, and finally, we made it to where we could see the Rocky Mountains; all the way across Nebraska and through Eastern Colorado. We decided to go off the map a bit, and just head south and west and south and west at every paved road until Denver. We were on a paved road for a while, when all of a sudden it turned into gravel and sand. Let me rephrase that: it turned into sand with gravel in it. The first fall I ever took on this trip was because I could not navigate through sand… imagine that we were already 10 miles away from a main road…there was no turning back. As we rode on, we saw the predicted thunderstorm rolling over the mountains in the far distance and chose a house in the distance as our destination. We were going to seek coverage.

As we rounded the corner, we saw two folks sitting in their green John Deer. I had heard a shot and asked if they had been shooting…the woman said no and we proceeded to tell them we were looking for a place to crash away from the storm. They told us that while they were sitting, watching the sunset, we could bike up ahead and set up on their property. If we wanted, they told us we could sleep in their guest room.

About 15 minutes and 1 mile later, as we were still struggling inch by inch through the sand, they drove past us and encouraged us that we were almost there!  When we arrived, they insisted we stay inside and we willingly obliged, how can you turn down a bed indoors? Only issue, I am quite allergic to cats and they had more than 15, 12 of which were brand new kittens, only two weeks old. I popped two Benadryl and went in to the house.  Little kitten paws were reaching from under door and little mew mews were emanating and echoing over the house. Mew mew mew.

The most interesting part of the stay was not the kittens or the indoor accommodations however. It was the history of the area and the lifestyle of a wheat farmer. Brett was the grandson of a man who bought the land during the Great Depression when it was fertile and cheaper. Brett’s father inherited the land when it still produced vegetables and grass for the cattle and then Brett took on the responsibility of working the land while his sisters moved out to the cities. I say when the land “used” to be fertile because of a recent water dispute between Boulder and Eastern Colorado, where Boulder won the rights to the water used by many farmers in Eastern CO. This is a sore spot for many farmers, as they have had to transition from multi-crop production, to the single, wheat plant which does not require as much H2O to survive.

Speaking of Boulder, when we were first coming up the road, apparently, they thought that JP and I were a bunch of “yuppies” from Boulder. Folks from PETA venture into the campo, the farmlands, to release prairie dogs into the “wild,” where they will be free from a city of poisons and road kill. They come to the farms to monitor the livelihood of prairie dogs, although they are a farmer’s enemy. Despite how cute they are, they dig holes which destroy the planting of crops and if they raise livestock, results in broken ankles and legs when the cows step in the holes. Anyway, that impression made us all laugh when we realized they thought us two bikers were coming to take away their guns.

Back to the wheat…Brett told us that they have not gotten any rain in months. And when there is no rain, there is no yield, since the amount of water they have access to is limited. Now, he owns his farm, but the rest of his yield comes from farm land that he rents and he cannot afford to rent as much land as he used to.

He took the farm from his father, now it is his time, what will happen in the future he questions? Less water, less land, less yield. What is to become of the small town farmer?

As we were leaving, I asked him what he thinks about America overall, as a farmer. He replied, “As a farmer, I feel underrepresented; we don’t have a voice. A football player makes the front page. Top viewed articles are all about sports. Farmers don’t get publicity.” He doesn’t think it is fair that an athlete makes millions when he has to decide whether to keep his land or move towards a more lucrative business.

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