I frequently get asked if I was raised on a farm--often by other farmers when attempting to assess, I've come to learn, my "street cred". In the conventional sense, I tell them, I was not, though all my friends growing up lived on a farm. Practically everyone I knew as a kid was a farmer. But my mom and dad did grow food--a lot of it. We had (and my parents continue to "farm") one of the largest vegetable gardens in the county--almost an acre, and a separate asparagus bed that measures out to roughly 600 square feet. Many of my earliest memories are of working the land with my sister, mom and dad. (And cutting and hauling wood for our wood burning furnace, which I will be the first to tell you is a lot of work!) It seemed there wasn't a vegetable that we didn't can, pickle, or freeze. We spent hours as a family every year around our kitchen table preparing items for long-term storage, from shucking peas to be frozen to cutting beans to be canned and cleaning pickles to be pickled. We did it all. My sister and I also spent most days outside, only coming home when we heard the church bells ring at 6 pm. I mention all of this because these are experiences that I have taken with me, as an adult, as a father and husband, and as a scholar.
I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa and my PhD from Iowa State University. I then spent time at Wageningen University (that's in The Netherlands) as a Post Doc. Eventually, I found my way to Colorado State (in Fort Collins, Colorado), where I happily remain. I am a Professor Sociology and the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Affairs in the College of Liberal Arts. I also have loose affiliations with universities in South Korea, Canada, New Zealand, China, Indonesia, and Brazil.
As you can see from the pictures to the left, I continue to spend as much time as possible outside...and my parents still "farm". I also take great joy in watching my two kids (and wife) as they have many of the same experiences I had as a child. We travel home to Iowa every summer. There they get to play in the very same garden I did as a kid, visit the farms of my friends, and, when possible, attend the local county 4-H fair.
I grew up in a small town--roughly 350 people--in northeastern Iowa: Fort Atkinson (see the map below). There's a lot of history for me in that little town. My mom was born and raised there. It is also where my grandpa and grandma opened a bar after World War II, which remained open until the 1970s--"Stan's Tavern". My dad was born on a farm about 20 miles north of my hometown. He later left agriculture to become a high school teacher, though you could say he never left agriculture entirely as he started a painting company back in the 1970s. Now he paints barns as opposed to working in them. I spent about 15 summers painting with dad. I think I learned to use a paintbrush before I could swing a baseball bat!