National Geographic : 2004 May
"this isn't for you, because it's going to take decades to shuffle the chromosomes. Oh, we'll have something promising in 25 years that will energize us. Sorghum and wheat will come first, corn and soybeans later. But we'll need people who can commit to long time frames, people with the ability to set up results they won't even see in their lifetimes." Long time frames might be tolerable in the venue of a greenhouse, but they are unlikely to catch on out in the fields where Great Plains farmers toil for their daily bread. While the big 14 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * MAY 2004 corporate farms rake in the lion's share of fed eral subsidies, and often turn a profit, the family farm is still a place of long hours, large debts, and small returns. The old days of making do with a couple of mules on 160 acres have been replaced by an era of exponentially expanding needs-more than a thousand acres per farm, on average, and a fleet of machines valued at half a million dollars. "It's sad," a retired dryland farmer in Oklahoma said to me one day. "There's just no way a young person can farm nowadays -e ven if he wanted to."