Letter to Iowa Farmeer Today about solar farms

Dear Editor,

I drive a short distance on gravel roads to go check pastured cattle each day. I often stop to pick up a beer can tossed out either to avoid the open container law or just for lack of respect for our environment.

Fifteen miles to the west of our farm are miles of windmills. On the way there is a small solar energy installation. The solar panels haven’t been properly directed for a month.

This is the kind of litter that makes a few beer cans look like small potatoes. I can take the cans to Dumont and donate them to the library. On the way to Des Moines down Interstate 35 is a huge pile of junked windmill blades. Apparently, they haven’t found a use for them. The library probably doesn’t want them either.

In Iowa Farmer Today (“Iowa residents question solar farm construction” June 5) is an article about potentially covering 4,250 acres of the best farmland on earth with a bunch of solar panels. Intercepting sunlight negates the usefulness of this amazing resource (the soil).

I suggest that the executives of NextEra and Clenera, who plan to use government alternative energy incentives for these installations should put them in their yards next to their swing sets and barbecues. Instead of spoiling the landscape of others.

The problem isn’t just as Jeff Ralston, Benton County farmer states that the owners have no concern about quality of life and are motivated by profits. The real deal is that none of this wasteful and unsightly trash would exist if not for the subsidies and tax credits stolen from people like myself and Mr. Ralston.

When and if wind and solar become profitable without taxpayer assistance those profits should be prized for directing scarce resources to their proper use. The profit motive, as long as theft is not involved, will always be the best way to guide our energy dollars, and everything else.

Fritz Groszkruger

Another reason to rename it Climate Change

54 lambs have been killed by eagles near a lake in Idaho. The cause of the change in behavior is said to be slow warm-up of Murtaugh Lake reducing the availability of fish, the usual food for the eagles.


Instead of a bumbling and inefficient tool of society, the radical [libertarian] sees the State itself, in its very nature, as coercive, exploitative, parasitic, and hence profoundly antisocial. The State is, and always has been, the great single enemy of the human race, its liberty, happiness, and progress.
 Murray Rothbard, Reason [March 1974]

Decoration Day and More

Memorial Day. Wow, I’m so glad the Vice President wished for us to have a good weekend. We made it good, as usual.

Twenty-eight years ago the Dumont Legion asked Hans (our eldest) to play Taps for funerals and Memorial Day services. The family went along to the Memorial Day events at five cemeteries. Dawn started singing the national anthem at them as well. Hans moved on, but his mom is still singing. Various students and a federal bureaucrat have filled in on taps. Steve is great and unnecessarily apologizes for his imperfect trumpet. The Legion bought a fake trumpet that broadcasts Taps because the school would not let kids out to play for funerals during the day. The terribleness of the recorded music compared to live music inspired them to find a way to provide a real person.

Out here in the country we are all hermits to a degree. After we’ve been set free of the government’s Covid lockdowns, the joy of socializing was a bit more intense for me. Very emotional, as we ran into a couple people who had lost loved ones way too early. I hope our hugs offered some comfort. My standard line in these situations is, “We now have a responsibility to carry on their excellent influence.”

Ceremony was sparse and to the point as the preacher tied history and present together well, in relation to the theme of Memorial Day. I appreciated the lack of reference to veterans and focus on those who lost their lives as Decoration Day was intended. Progress is fine but like the evolution of law in the United States, it can diminish the original intent.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t appreciate the service of the people honored on Memorial Day. I’m not going to join the chorus of partisan complainers on the Vice President. The day was a time to connect with our neighbors behind a common idea. Those who have been lost to government’s blunders went into it with the intent of preserving relationships like we maintain or renew on Memorial Day. Kamala Harris’ destructive views on the role of government shouldn’t get in the way of community, ever.

I can’t go on here though, without expressing dismay at the proliferation of the phrase, “They died to preserve our freedom.” That idea could be found in wars dating back from World War II and even then has its questionable points. But since then freedom has mostly been granted to lobbyists and war profiteers who have drained our wealth and mercilessly abused our military personnel.

On a lighter note, after reuniting with friends and family at Memorial Day services, Tuesday brought the first Hampton Municipal Band performance of the season. This is the one-hundredth anniversary of the band. Like the conversion of Fleetwood Mac from a blues band to pop, I even enjoyed the Disney medley.

In 1921, Fort Dodge Municipal Band Director, Karl King sponsored a bill allowing communities to impose taxes funding community bands. After the Municipal Band Fund law passed, he composed “Iowa Band Law March,” which Director Chris Sauke had the band play Tuesday night.

In 1921 the country was in the grips of a recession that rivaled the one in 2008. Andrew Mellon, President Warren Harding’s treasury secretary guided Harding to lower income and corporate taxes and reduce spending and regulations. Harding had his faults but compared to Franklin Roosevelt’s 16-year depression and the lingering effects of George W. Bush’s stimulus in 2008, Harding’s granting of freedom to the American people was a heroic act. Unemployment fell from 12% to 3.3% for the remainder of the decade.

There’s a difference between a community of 5,000 and 330 million. I’ll make an exception to my limited government stance when it comes to the Iowa Band Law because of that. But I wouldn’t doubt that our community would voluntarily step up if the band was ever in need from this point forward. 

Our Friends in the Soil Deserve Life

The West Fork of the Cedar River winds through our farm. It is filled with silt from the tilled fields around us. That’s too bad. But the saddest part is the wasted time and God’s creatures who were put here to make our lives better. The unappreciation of a generation for soil that is now only considered a medium to support plants while imported ingredients feed them as if in hydroponics, instead of a complete system of life. Then there’s our new neighbor, who tore up 50 acres of grass to plant organic soybeans as if organic were a more ecological alternative to no till with some chemicals or hay. Oh well.
I hope some of you will respond with questions and especially arguments if you think I need some education on this. I’ve changed my mind before and am always ready for new ideas. Thanks for reading and sharing with others if you will.

Our Friends in the Soil Deserve Life

Mostly what I did in school was look out the window and wait for the bell. I still do a little celebration if I notice the time is 3:15. I was in huge California schools and that probably contributed to the feeling that I was merely moving down an assembly line.

But then I had Mr. Hurst for Biology. Biology was great. It had the universality of math with the excitement of life. We did collections of plants, insects, and sea life. Mr. Hurst, also the football coach, seemed to like academics and coached to subsidize that instead of the other way around. He stayed after class to have little debates with me.

It was kinda weird for a high school kid in Newport Beach to grow spinach but my mom made salad out of it, with bacon. Now I’ve had that habit for 50 years.

I never dreamt back then I would grow things for a living. But here we are, retired from 40 years of row crops, yet unable to tear ourselves away from the cattle. Life is precious. In Iowa, soil is precious. Thinking back to that sand in Newport and in visiting with people from distant places who visit our farm, I could never express enough the appreciation I have for Iowa soil.

We hear more about the soil these days. I listen to Hort Day on public radio and also read articles about “regenerative agriculture.” I see “organic” sections in the stores.

The organic fad has been a boon to my organic farmer friends although the difficulty of the management must deliver rich rewards. It is rather silly to claim this or that result from chemicals that may have effects on distantly far off generations. But as is happening in South Dakota, erosion is visible today. I’ve actually seen photos of road ditches filled with wind-blown soil. Our drainage ditch was just dredged of our neighbor’s soil for the third time since we moved here.

Gunsmoke Farms is General Mills’ 53 square miles of South Dakota farmland being converted to organic production. They plan to use all that land to teach other farmers “how to implement organic and regenerative agricultural practices.”

I do mean to rain on their parade. Organic and regenerative could only mean first you destroy the soil structure and life in the soil, then you put it back. It sounds like the traditional joke about workers digging a hole only to put the dirt back in.

The people I hear on Friday’s Hort Day on IPR are in a tight spot. Since they favor organic production, the more scientific aspect of soil makes for a major contradiction. To get a crop, competition must be limited. Limiting that competition from weeds requires tillage if it’s done on a scale to provide food for the masses. A day’s work can undo much of 450 million years’ worth of building the soil.

My friend Leonard from out West introduced me to mycorrhizal fungi. He developed its use in land restoration projects. Like in a lot of things the unseen is often more important than the seen. A large part of the soil is made of phosphorus. That phosphorus in unavailable to the plants unless converted to a usable form. The mycelium of that fungi grow through the soil and even up into plant roots delivering otherwise unavailable phosphorus.

A 6.9 million pound dragline digs the material in Florida. It is made into a slurry, filtered, scrubbed, washed, dried, shipped, and spread. All this energy is spent so farmers can spend time and energy killing the life that will deliver phosphorus for free.

Mycorrhizal fungi is only one of thousands of living things that work for farmers if left alone. Like in many facets of our world, if left alone it will keep giving. It is a noble goal to eliminate the unknowns of chemical farming, but eliminating the known hazards should come first, especially when it reduces costs as well.