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27 July 2013 - Who Did This Work?

As many of you know, I do spend a fair amount of time in the right-hand seat (I always have a professional pilot in the left seat) of the Cessna 210 that I’ve owned since 1984 and use a great deal to fly to farm events and speaking engagements across the Midwest. Beyond 300 miles, it gets a little pricey so I fly commercial on longer trips, such as my trip last week to Arizona to address the Arizona Cattle Growers Convention. Yet at any time of the year, I enjoy the opportunity to be in the air and get a close look at what is happening on farms and ranches below me.

What do I see from the air this time of the year? I see bare spots in fields where persistent rains prevented planting or crops were killed by flooding. But most impressive is the rapid growth that turns bare fields into canopies of deep green in a matter of a couple weeks. And in just a few more weeks, I will watch the green turn to gold and the dust from combines rolling into the air. If it is possible for you to fly over your farm, do it; you will be amazed at what you see from 2,000 feet.

But the other reason for this flying discussion comes from a recent plane trip my wife and I took from the rolling farm land of central Wisconsin to the flat prairie land of central Illinois. Looking out the window, she said “Isn’t it just amazing to see how all of these fields are laid out in equal squares!” Well, I guess I hadn’t thought about it because I know that, yes, from the air you see the grid, one square mile, 640 acres, a section of land as far as you can see. When you travel across flat country like Illinois, the symmetry is impressive and a beautiful sight. But, when you are flying over Wisconsin with hills and more creeks and rivers, the grid isn‘t quite as easy to see. But then came Gloria’s question “Who did this all this work?” and I couldn’t answer it.

Obviously it took a lot of time and a lot of hard work, mostly on foot I would imagine, to do the surveying and the laying out of these square-mile sections across the country. I love history, but this is one area I have never researched, so I am reaching out to you.

If any of you had someone in your family tree who was a surveyor and did this work, I would like to hear from you. I am not going to Google it because I want to hear the story, what the work was like, how long it took, and when it was done, from people who have personal knowledge. So, help me out so I can answer Gloria’s question “Who did all this hard work?”.

My e-mail address: orion@agbizweek.com

One final thought from the airplane as I look at this productive farm land in America. It boggles my mind when I think about the time and fuel it takes to turn these acres into food for a hungry world. Thank you all for doing it!

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.