The Face and Fate of Family Farms

The danger that viewers might click the channel scanner on the Frontline documentary The Farmer's Wife too quickly is real, but only to their great loss. As Americans, we are so accustomed to the sound and fury of TV drama that we find it difficult to adjust to the slow but sure pace of life lived together in harmony with the land. The constant hype of the surreal and supernatural have all but blinded us to the gift of reality and the beauty of the natural.

But, if we wait even a few minutes for life as we really live it to come back into focus, this documentary will reward us with a moving and compelling testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. It is a monument to the spirituality of the common, and life lived as a sacrament.

The Farmer's Wife is the story of Juanita, Darrel, and their children; actually of three generations who are caught up in Darrel's dream of farming the land as his parents had before him. Darrel doesn't just want to make a living for his family; he has an intuitive sense that he is called to be a steward of the land as well. But like most farm families, Darrel and his family continue to face the "farm crisis" long after it was a fashionable topic for the news media. They are caught in an ever-deepening vortex of debt, self-doubt, and depression that very nearly sucks them under and destroys them individually and as a family. Reluctantly, and only when faced with the loss of everything he holds dear, does Darrel come to accept that Juanita has a right to a dream of her own, and that there can be life after farming if necessary!

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1998
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