A survey published in Progressive Farmer magazine this summer showed that farmers find their family life extremely satisfying; three-quarters of those surveyed said their families consistently make them feel self-confident and good about themselves. The farmers named money and weather as their top problems; the advantages of farming included independence, freedom and the farm as a good place to bring up children. Among other traits listed in the survey as common to farm families: They are unusually optimistic and have a strong belief in God; they are very independent; and they value personal freedom.
The Shlagels, pictured on our cover, are amazingly typical of farm families, staff writer Kathy Lally tells me. Thus, she says, what started as a story examining the day-to-day life of one Maryland farm family developed into a wider, and fascinating, look at how the small farmer is surviving in relatively perilous times.
"The Shlagels are extremely optimistic," Kathy says. "I guess you have to be optimistic, facing the uncertainties of weather and pests. 'There's always next year' is their favorite phrase, Russell Shlagel told me."