The New York Times has just published a story in its Sunday Magazine that managed, in a thousand words or so, both to tell something good about Midwestern kids and to display what's wrong with most writing about American farming.
The story featured Alexandra Reau, a 14-year-old girl in Petersburg, Mich., who has developed a nice business growing all manner of vegetables and herbs in her family's yard and selling them directly to people in the neighborhood. Alexandra is part of the CSA (community-supported agriculture) movement that aims to get fresh produce to customers who pay a flat fee for regularly-delivered boxes of fruits and vegetables. Alexandra sounds like a bright, sweet and ambitious girl, making money for college while learning about plants and how they grow.
Andrea, say the Times, is a "quiet honor student with demurely made-up eyes." And then it asks, gratuitously, "Who says the face of American farming is a 57-year-old man with a John Deere cap?"
Well, everybody who knows anything about American farming, that's who. It should be possible to write about a nice kid growing tomatoes and zucchini in her backyard without succumbing to the urban bias to demonize the people who grow most of America's food. But the Times, as usual, succumbed.