It was a splendid late summer day — the temperature pleasant, not at all punishing — with clouds like stately sailing ships navigating across a sky of endless robin’s egg blue.
With no particular destination in mind, we set off — my two daughters and I, with a family friend driving — for an unscripted tour of the countryside in the current fullness of the growing season.
Our route took us eastward, roughly paralleling the Missouri River and passing through a series of historic river towns, with their wonderfully ornate mansions, legacies of the merchant princes whose wealth was delivered to them by the current’s flow.
But most striking of all was the verdancy of the land itself.
Farming can be an uncertain enterprise, with results invariably hostage to the weather.
Two summers ago, relentless heat and the paucity of moisture cost many midlands producers dearly.
This year the challenge was different. Torrential spring rains washed out many early corn and soybean plantings, and sodden fields delayed the summer wheat harvest.
The fields we passed on that recent drive betrayed no such distress.
The cornstalks stood taller than a man’s head, each with at least one full ear, often two or more.
The soybean plants in nearly every field were waist-high, promising a spectacular yield.
Not one scrap of land was idle.
And at the roadside I counted no fewer than 15 family-operated produce stands, offering a variety of edibles from peaches and apples to berries, green vegetables and jars of home-canned jellies and preserves.
To spend part of a pretty day traveling that road is to understand why, although there are whole nations of hungry people in the world — lands in which starvation is a common cause of childhood death — this country of ours prospers from its productivity.
Part of it is luck — the good fortune to farm on deep and fertile soil — not desert or swamp or sea-bordering salt flats.
And part must be credited to those who had the cleverness and vision to invent and manufacture the machines that make possible a timely and thrifty harvest.
Finally, perhaps above all, thanks are owed to the American farmers — individuals with the courage, the knowledge and the determination to do things right.
The spectacle of flourishing crops at roadside was testimony to their importance.