Raymond Pew’s great-grandfather received a land grant for service in the War of 1812, and his family has been farming the same valley near Keene ever since. Standing on the hill overlooking the valley, it is easy to imagine the transformation that has happened here over the generations. Raymond tells stories not only of his ancestors and their farming methods, but also his own firsthand memories of a different way of life; farming before tractors, chemicals, and hybrid seeds, when soils were fed by manure and four-year crop rotations, and his father slaked lime on the farm instead of buying it in bags.
He talks about a time when everyone milked cows and had hogs, and says that his family has always had sheep. This is another subject that arises frequently in discussions with grain farmers: almost all of them recall a time when they had a hog barn or other livestock as a large part of their farm income. Some still raise a small herd of beef cattle, though their main business is corn and soy. At the Pew farm, sheep graze on the hillside where we stand, a reminder of a time when the farm was also home to milking cows, hogs, chickens, and fruit trees.
Raymond’s stories were so captivating; it was difficult to narrow them down and decide which to include. His words encompass not only the memories of times past, but also an understanding of and adaptation to the rapid changes of modern agriculture: