Somewhere in Iowa © Google Maps

The farm crisis that started in 1980 and the extinction of the family farm is a subject near to my heart. It is a topic very difficult to fit into 150-words. Here’s one try:

“Maybe we could sell the tractor,” she said.

Selling the tractor would pay the mortgage on a field they couldn’t farm without it. He shook his head. “We’ll figure something out.”

Out the kitchen window, the broken bronze stalks of last summer’s corn waded in a thin skim of snow. The money from the harvest was long spent. Maybe sell the south forty, he thought. It was higher up and dry most years. They’d still have the rich eighty by the river.

But what if it flooded? What if next year’s crop was just as poor—what then? What would be left of his grandfather’s farm if he had to cut off a piece of it for every bad year? He never should’ve gotten the mortgage.

Eddie flung his sippy cup from his high chair and gurgled.

Insurance money, he decided. He stood. “I’m going out to the barn.”

149 words

This has been and edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt or to submit your own, click here.


  1. Oh man. This is grim. And sadly true. The family farm is fast fading into our storied past, much like the local pharmacy or hardware store. The things that actually made American a bulwark of decency are being replaced by soulless corporations whose single duty is to give profits to shareholders. Well told.

    1. Thanks J Hardy. Very true what you said.

  2. My oh my…
    Tell me K, what’s the situation with family farms now in the U.S.? Any better or deteriorating?

    1. I have the sense they’re a rare breed. My own family’s been out of it for a couple generations. Much of the land is leased back and it’s a challenge to make a living. The handful of farmers I know work other jobs in order to support themselves. Thank you so much for reading!

      1. That’s sad. Many countries worldwide are facing the same problem. Obviously not Germany. Farms and villages here are very much alive.
        Always a pleasure.

      2. That is lovely to hear!

  3. Sometimes you just have to let things burn.

    1. 🙂 Sometimes you do! Thanks for reading.

  4. So sad! What kind of a world is it when farmers must commit suicide and collect the insurance money just to pay the bills. It’s all backward, I say. Brilliant writing about something so tragic.

    1. Thanks so much. It is a very sad situation!

  5. I was gripped by you story – think you capture such a strong story in so few words. The ending is tantalising I found – the farmer going to the barn..for insurance ..setting fire to it ? Shooting himself ? It’s a situation that I have no experience of, so thank you for giving me a glimpse.

    1. Thank you so much for reading. I’m touched by your kind words. I think it’s interesting the two different scenarios that the readers have concluded. I had one specific end in mind, but the others are just as possible.

  6. […] HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to Pegman. Can you believe it’s been a year already? Many happy returns to Karen and Josh. You’re doing a great […]

    1. Thanks Rochelle! We are so delighted to have you join in the fun when you are able.

  7. Dear Karen,

    Hard to put in 150 words? You did it brilliantly in 149! His frustration was tangible and that last line goes for the jugular.



    1. High praise! You made me grin in spite of the dark nature of the story. Thanks Rochelle 🙂

  8. What a lot you tell us in 149 words, and so cleverly too. The infant tells us the farmer is probably a young man. The mortgage was probably the rashness of youth. He’s quite macho, not sharing his thoughts with his wife, although she’s trying to take some of the load. I certainly don’t think he’ll kill himself – at least, not until life gets much worse. He’s still in there fighting with every weapon he has. I hope he gets away with the insurance scam.
    There’s an epic in there somewhere, Karen!

    1. Penny, I adore your talent for careful reading. Sometimes you pick up things I secretly tucked away and wondered if anyone would notice. And sometimes you give me way too much credit. Either way I’m so delighted to have you read my work and to read your wonderful work as well.

  9. peterkirsch

    I recall vividly what that period did to many of our family’s friends who farmed.
    A fitting tribute to a very difficult time.

    1. Glad you liked it. Thanks for reading!

  10. What a terrible situation. And now driven to a desperate act at the thought of needing to look after the family and leave something for little Eddie when he grows up.

    1. A sad situation indeed. Thanks for reading.

  11. Oh, so sad… surely your character isn’t going to shot himself…. ahhh…. I see from others he is going to set fire to the barn. Gosh, I am so naive. Interesting we choose a similar(ish…ish) theme, Karen. Mine from a completely different angling, thank goodness.

    1. I think the story was open to interpretation and I like that readers to get different ways. So please don’t apologize. Thanks so much for reading.

  12. It is official. The spellchecker and me are not talking anymore! shot was shoot in the above comment and angling was angle!

    1. You should see the awful things my voice to text does to me! I can totally relate. 🙂

  13. You captured the death of the family farm superbly, K.

    1. Thanks Neel, thank you for reading!

  14. Oh, I hope he rethinks that one! It’s a once-done, never undone type of thing.

    1. So true. Thanks for reading Scott!

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