the farmer's wife

To The Viewer by Darrel and Juanita Buschkoetter

From Darrel

When we were asked to do the film, I had mixed feelings. A part of me didn't want to expose all of our problems. I was so embarrassed and defeated by all of our financial and marital problems. I felt too many people already hated me, looked down on me and saw me as a total failure; especially some of our creditors and my in-laws. I was so run-down and stressed out from working at my job in town during the day and trying to keep up with the farm at night. It seemed as if I had already died and gone to hell! I often wondered what I did to deserve this, especially when I felt I had let Juanita and the girls down. I just knew they held this against me.

But the other part of me wanted to do the film. I wanted to show the public what will be lost if family farmers are gone. I knew it was time to wake people up and do whatever we can to stop the destruction of the greatest possible dream a man could have--raising my family on the farm away from all of the world's problems.

Today, more and more people look at farming as only a business; a way to make money. In corporate farming, greed takes the place of many qualities found in family farming.

To me, being a family farmer has many meanings. The first is honesty. As long as you have that, the rest falls into place. God set us up to be good stewards of the land. This means we would give up our left arm to take care of the land--conserving the soil for generations to come, allowing part of tillable land to be set aside for wildlife, leaving trees to protect the environment and, most of all, sharing some of the land with neighbors. This is what makes a great community. If my grandparents could see what big, corporate farms are doing to the beautiful land they left behind, they would turn over in their graves.

I want people everywhere to hear the message that family farmers are in big trouble and that BIG changes need to be made. Everyone, not just the family farmer, will pay for the mistake of looking at farming as only a business. People need to consider what will happen if corporations are allowed to take over the farming industry. Food would no longer be cheap and there would be no one to care for the land God entrusted to us.

This year, the price I will get for my grain will be less than what a farmer received 30 years ago. I challenge anyone in the city to make a living today on a salary they would have earned 30 years ago. It is pretty tough. People call small family farmers failures because we can't make enough money from farming to provide for a family. Yet, I feel we are most successful because we understand that the true elements of raising good, honest, happy children are not found in material things.

I agreed to open our lives to the public to help other farmers who struggle and to show the American public what they risk losing if they don't support family farms.

I am proud of my family. I am proud of our family farm. I am proud to be a farmer.

From Juanita

I have always wanted to be able to make a difference in the world. As field staff for the Nebraska Farm Crisis Hotline, I loved the feeling of coming to the aid of other struggling farm couples and being able to help them find their way out of their troubles, whether financial or personal. So when David Sutherland approached us about the film, although I was a little hesitant, I saw an opportunity to help many others, mainly by just letting them see they were not alone. That seems to give people strength when they realize that maybe they aren't really failures, that others struggle too.

I also wanted to somehow reach those for whom we grow food, to let them know how scared we should be as a nation that the family farm is disappearing. We are losing literally thousands of farms a year to corporations who look to farming as a business only. We only have to go as far as a few miles from our farm to see the effects of corporate farming. Land had been purchased by corporations, who brought in huge bulldozers to clear the land of trees and shrubs and native grasses and ponds, that make it the beauty that God intended. We personally have struggled to establish windbreaks through years of drought, and then watched in horror as these bulldozers effortlessly destroyed what God and farmers of a past generation had worked to build. Only one year after this particular farm was leveled, you could see the effects of erosion as topsoil silts down and fills the road ditch along the highway. Typical Nebraska wind storms blow even more valuable soil away. We budget conservation into our cash flows so that we are able to build terraces and waterways, practice strip farming and minimum tillage, and plant trees to conserve God's precious soil. It is every farmer's hope to be able to pass on his farm to generations to come as healthy, productive land, not just to clear a profit the current fiscal year.

We also are part of a dying sector of American families who believe that the family can survive hardships, and still stand as a family. It pains me to think what our daughters have struggled through because of Darrel's and my determination to stick it out, but I hope we have instilled in our children a strong sense of faith, not only in God, but also in themselves and in our family. By operating our farm, we are able to work together as a family, growing stronger through our successes as well as through our struggles; to laugh together as we take a dip in the stock tank, or have a picnic when we bring lunch to Darrel in the field. We also take pride in being a part of the farming community, being there for our neighbors when needed.

I realize we are not the "poster farm family," we clearly have our faults and are far from perfect. But we are genuine in our beliefs that God put the farmer here to be steward of the land, not only for our lifetime, but for generations to come. And, also, that when you truly believe in something good, you can achieve it. With self-determination and focus, and not forgetting that there are people out there who are willing to help, dreams can be fulfilled.

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This guide was created for use with the program "The Farmer's Wife," a
co-production of David Sutherland Productions,Inc. and FRONTLINE in association
with the Independent Television Service (ITVS).

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