Afterword to After the Harvest
When Lynn and I began this project, we were excited about, once again, exploring Indiana—about passing through Hoosier cities and towns we hadn’t visited before. We were eager to discover older grain elevators and feed mills, so we could capture their uniqueness and variety on film. Because neither of us had been raised on a farm, we had no emotional attachments to these buildings—we were simply drawn to them because of their historical and visual appeal.
Then, as the months went by, and the miles accumulated, and as people told us their elevator stories, we began to realize how profoundly important our project was. We were not only paying tribute to interesting old buildings, we were honoring a vanishing way of life by documenting the demise of one particular aspect of Indiana’s rural agricultural history.
I have no doubt that there will always be grain elevators, feed mills, and family farms in Indiana. But their numbers have been declining for years, and will continue to diminish. As a result, the type of life Birch Bayh describes in his Foreword is already a part of Indiana’s past. For decades now, many of the children who grew up on farms have left them behind. Perhaps, like Senator Bayh, they went off to college, had successful careers, and made important contributions in other arenas.
Of course, sons and daughters leaving the farm is just one factor contributing to the decline of country grain elevators and feed mills. Today’s pressing economic realities have left little room for any type of small agricultural operation—farm, mill, or elevator. While I can’t help but feel sad at what’s been happening, I also know that I can’t turn back the clock. Grain elevators and feed mills will keep disappearing. Family farms will continue to merge into large corporate concerns. No one can change this trend.
But, as a photographer, I can do something during this unprecedented time of transition—take pictures. And that’s what I’ve done—shooting roll after roll of film, of these once majestic symbols of Hoosier farming life. In creating After the Harvest, I feel fortunate, and proud, to have been able to preserve on these pages these agricultural icons, for present and future generations.