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Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern | Article

Jordan Farm Update

Where We Left Off...
In the late 1980s, Iowa farmers Russ and Mary Jane Jordan faced a mounting debt and a bottom-line-oriented mega-bank. As the Jordans moved dangerously close to foreclosure, they came up with a risky plan to save their 125-year-old family farm. They would have to sell everything they owned, pay off their debt -- and move off the land that had been in the Jordan family for three generations. If all went well, their son Jim, who already owned farming equipment, would then assume control of the farm, debt free.

Three generations of Jordans: Russell, his son Jim, and grandson James.

Determined not to lose their farm, the Jordans hired an auction company to merchandise most of their belongings. The family successfully raised more than enough to pay off their back debt. Russ and Mary Jane settled into a comfortable life in town and their son Jim and his family moved onto the farm.

"Russ turned the farm over to Jim with an ease that could never have been predicted," says filmmaker Jeanne Jordan. "Transitions haven't always been this smooth. When my great grandfather left the farm to my grandfather, Warren, a family feud ensued--the siblings all fighting for their share."

The Update
Jim turned forty shortly after the documentary was completed in 1993. The move to his parents' house did not improve he and his wife's financial situation. Jim cites, "...a government food policy designed to keep the price of food low, a huge insurance company calling itself a farm organization and working against anything that would raise the prices paid to farmers in the marketplace, and the movement towards the vertical intergration of almost all the livestock raised in the country...made medium-sized farms like ours financially unworkable." The occasion of his 40th birthday spurred Jim and Gini to examine their lives and where they'd like to be heading.

Jim decided to enroll in the Civil Engineering Technology program at Iowa Western Community College. "It looked like something I would like to do and it had absolutely nothing to do with agriculture." He began fulltime classes in January, 1994 and graduated first is his class in May, 1996 -- while continuing to farm.

In October 1993 Mary Jane was diagnosed with ALS -- also called Lou Gehrig's Disease -- making the troubles on the farm seem insignificant. She passed away on May 3,1995 with her family surrounding her.

Russ continues to fight the good fight with Parkinson's Disease (often found in clusters with Lou Gehrig's Disease -- research suggests pesticides or contaminated ground water may be to blame). If Russ follows his medication regimen rigidly he does pretty well. He will never get over Mary Jane's death but he hasn't lost his sense of humor or adventure. Troublesome Creek has afforded him plenty of adventures. He came on stage at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, when the film took the top two awards. He also joined Jeanne and Steve at the Academy Awards where, to his great delight, he was mistaken for Sean Connery -- twice.

Jim and Gini's daughter Grace -- the redhead on the bike -- is a freshman at the University of Iowa. Jesse and James are in 11th grade and 8th grade respectively. They are all excellent students, which is important as college scholarships are a must for family farm kids. So far none of them envision farming as a career option.

Jim has this to offer: "I think I speak for Gini and the kids when I say we love living on this wonderful farm on the banks of Troublesome Creek. We have a good and busy life. We both work long hours in town, but enjoy coming home each evening to the ever-changing scene of the timber pasture behind the house. Our lives continue to evolve with each passing season."

April 1999. The very latest from Troublesome Creek
While Jim & Gini and Jon & Kim continue to live in the Jordan farm houses, the crop land itself is rented out to neighbors who have larger operations.

Van's Chat `n' Chew closed in early 1998 after more than 25 years in business. For sentimental reasons, the Jordans kept the sign which appears in the film.

In August 1998, two enormous tour busses full of Australian farmers pulled up in front of Russ's "cabin," as he calls it, to have a picnic with him. They even brought the picnic. They came because they are fans of Troublesome Creek and reported that the film's success in Australia was instrumental in passing a bill that now guarantees that farmers with troubled loans be given a mediator to help with negotiations with the bank.

Another group of Aussies is scheduled to arrive in August 1999 for another picnic -- this time on the banks of Troublesome Creek.

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