Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Photographer's Journal: Louisiana Agriculture

Corn Rotation
Friends who live in Monroe might have seen a recent article in "The News Star" that resulted from my photograph currently part of the Art Melt 2013 exhibit in Baton Rouge. The story locates that image in a new project of sorts. I have gotten interested in photographing Louisiana agriculture.

Those who know me best might recall that I grew up on a farm in Iowa. I spent many hours driving tractors, milking cows, feeding chickens, and more. Perhaps most unusual, I rather than any of my brothers was the one who wanted to help my dad repair the farm machinery. And I did, many times and many hours, handing him tools, holding the light, and more.

A few days ago I headed south on Highway 165 for a meeting with the Bishop, and left a couple hours early having decided that I would stop at the first farm where something was visibly going on. I did, just south of Monroe, and it was a farm & grain elevator operation. They were shipping out corn that day, having been offered a premium price for "all the corn we can deliver before August 1."

With permission, I shot a bunch of photos and this is the first one processed. I think I surprised the farmer by knowing enough to ask some intelligent questions. I learned that corn and cotton are good crops to rotate, and that's what he does to prevent crop and soil "fatigue" resulting from the same crop year after year. I also was surprised to learn that corn is less expensive than cotton for Louisiana farmers to grow because, even though it requires more fertilizer, it requires fewer pesticides.

The next time I go to this farm, I'm asking permission to climb the stairs to the top of the silo. I want to see if I can show the relationship between the farm, the levee and the Ouachita River.

Oh, and anyone who happens to be familiar with the photography of David Plowden might recognize an influence here! Plowden photographed my home state, Iowa.

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