Some people call it flyover country. Millions of people call it home. And I’ll never understand the short-sighted attitude that dismisses all the important work that happens in the heartland, in service of us all. The Midwest and Central Plains of the United States contain some of the most productive farmland in the world and make the U.S. one of only a few nations on earth that export more food than they import. This region also hosts critical manufacturing, transportation, and communications industries that keep the entire country moving and connected. It is a land of serious doers.
I couldn’t possibly tell you how many times I have driven through this territory–particularly along the I-80 corridor between Chicago and Denver. Since our college days, my husband and I have traveled this road back and forth between school and home, then on visits to family–sometimes several times in a year. For 25 years, we have observed the landscape while driving through places like Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado.
We have seen businesses come and go, new attractions pop up, truck stops and roadside restaurants fade in popularity and fall into disrepair. We’ve seen cities grow and agricultural equipment advance. But overall, the natural landscape hasn’t changed much. In most places where corn, soybeans, cattle, and wheat stood 20 years ago, they stand today. And especially when we appreciate the challenge inherent in feeding the world’s rapidly growing population, there’s some comfort in seeing only small changes to this panorama over time. Technologies and techniques will change, but these are places that we need to have dedicated to agriculture.
Yet one truly dramatic change has come over the last couple of decades, and particularly over the last 15 years or so. Driving through this part of the country, it’s impossible to miss the proliferation of wind farms. The Midwest and Central Plains aren’t the only places dotted with enormous turbines, but the largest number are concentrated along a north-south band through the middle of the country, where both open space and wind are both plentiful. It makes a lot of sense to “plant” a wind farm among growing crops. But doing so requires a shift in mindset.
For people accustomed to working the land and devoted to making that land more productive, it takes a different perspective to look at the sky and decide to harness the wind. It requires a new definition of productivity. After all, erecting a turbine is not about creating, growing, or planting anything; it’s about catching what’s going by.
What about you? Do you need to make a shift in your definition of productivity? Do you live with an awareness of what’s going by, what you might become part of, how you might jump in to help harness a new resource? Or do you have your head down at all times, focused only one what’s in front of you? I wonder what you might be missing.
Productivity isn’t always about producing. Doing what matters isn’t always about doing. Moving forward can mean staying where we are. Sometimes we have opportunities to participate in what someone else is doing, coming alongside in support. At other times, we add our own breath to a fresh wind that brings life and much-needed air to a stagnant place. And sometimes we stay exactly where we are, willing to be the right person in the right place, generating just enough electricity to keep a movement flowing.
So put yourself out there to catch what’s going by–the winds that are blowing right around you. If you keep your arms to your sides and your head down, it will blow right past. If you reach out, you might catch hold of a whole new energy source.
© 2018 Amy Simpson.