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Articles by Julene Bair

Julene Bair is a farmer's daughter who went rogue. She is the author of One Degree West: Reflections of a Plainsdaughter and is putting the finishing touches on a memoir, Ogallala: A Story of Land, Love, Water, and Loss. Learn more on her website.

Featured Article

Kansas wheat.Photo: Brian McGuirkMy father farmed in Kansas and envied those lucky farmers in the wetter states to the east of us, who could grow 200-bushel corn and other lucrative crops like soy beans and sugar beets. He had to satisfy himself with wheat, a drought-tolerant crop first brought to the States from a place in Russia much like ours. There, they called such arid places “steppes.” Here, we called them “plains.”

To look at the pale-green buffalo grass that covered the High Plains, you would never suspect that an aquifer holding as much water as Lake Huron lay beneath. But we knew about the aquifer. Its waters seeped to the surface in some otherwise dry creek beds, feeding rare ponds where we sometimes went fishing. And my pioneer grandparents had drilled down into the aquifer and erected windmills that we relied on to pump the water we needed to exist.

The technology to tap more water from the aquifer arrived in the 1940s, but it wasn’t until the mid-sixties that my family had saved enough to drill our first irrigation well. Bumper profits rolled in. By the time we sold our farm in 2006, we had five wells pumping 200 millio... Read more