"An inherently riveting read from cover to cover, The Northeast Quarter clearly demonstrates author S. M. Harris as a truly gifted storyteller, and his many layered, deftly crafted novel certain to be a highly popular addition to personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections."
-Midwest Book Review

About Northeast Quarter

The Northeast Quarter is an epic story of the power of family, the complexity of human greed, and the pursuit of justice during the early 1920's in an America defined by the aftermath of war and the onset of The Great Depression.

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A Downside Of Progress

I was reading some articles on the Radio Iowa website and came across an entry by Matt Kelley. Got me to thinking. Kelley said that many farmers are facing issues involving allergies and hearing loss. We have had friends and family in Iowa for years. Unless it is a serious illness, they never even mention the word “Sick.” So what about this new development? One answer might be that this is part of the downside of progress. Farming machinery has gotten bigger and more sophisticated. In the old days a horse and plow or even a tractor were relatively quiet. But today the newer models of tractor, truck and combine, while not screechingly loud, still provide a constant (possibly negative) effect on the hearing. As for the allergies, this same machinery kicks up more dust than a horse and plow ever did. It looks as if ear plugs and sinus

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The Past And The Present

Was looking through articles in Iowa State University Extension News and came across an article called What Is The Farm Problem? by Mark A. Edelman. Granted, it was written back in 1999, but much of its content struck a personal note for me. First paragraph was called The Historical Farm Problem – Overcapacity, Low Prices and Farm Income. What he describes is part of the historical background of The Northeast Quarter. He mentions that following WW1, as Europe got back on its feet, European food production began to improve and American farmers were caught with fewer markets to sell their crops. This created an agricultural depression which hit the heartland long before the advent of The Great Depression in 1929. The Hawley-Smoot Tariff of 1930 did nothing to improve matters – for it cut off both import and export possibilities. As a result, many farmers lost their land. It has

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Saving The Life Of The Farm

I was reading the home page of Beginning Farmer Center when an article caught my eye: Upcoming Event – Returning To The Farm Seminar. A 4 day event to be held in Ames, Iowa in January 2017. It finishes with the words “All family members are encouraged to attend.” The purpose is to encourage the children of farmers to return home and work the family farm after their parents are gone. In most cases the kids grow up and when they’re of age, they leave the small town for the big city. Over the passing years the small towns have grown  smaller, businesses have closed  up and places resembling  Grover’s Corners in  Our Town  have turned  into facsimiles of   the Texas town  The Last Picture Show.  Survival is a serious business  and I wish them all the luck in the world.

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The Empty Fields

I came across Helena Bottemiller Evich’s article in Politico from Spring 2015 about an upcoming GOP political gathering at Iowa State Fairgrounds. I was interested because one of the topics to be addressed was agricultural issues. With all the other issues confronting us today (health care, immigration, terrorism) it seemed worthwhile to discuss farm issues. Everyone at the time agreed that there was a downside – there were fewer farmers and, therefore, not much necessity to address their problems. It’s been this way for some time. I can remember going to Audubon, Iowa for my father’s funeral in 1998 and back again for my mother’s funeral in 2006. Many of the properties we passed were not run by farm families. but by companies who placed a manager in charge of several properties. The actual work was performed by machinery and the manager’s job was to see that everything was done

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A Win For Farmers

Have always been wary of government intrusion into our lives. Usually they tell us it’s being done for our own good – but more often (to me at least) the intrusion seems to exist for the them to justify their jobs. Or even make them feel useful. We protest and sometimes we push back, but like a well-intended mudslide, these intrusions just keep coming.
Was heartened to read in Hoosier Ag and National Hog Farm.com about a Supreme Court decision (8-0) in favor of landowners. Seems the Army Corps and EPA had made a determination that wetlands existed on a certain property. However, it also seems that the nearest navigable water was about 100 miles away from the property in question. The landowners took it to court and, thanks to the decision, farmers can challenge such bureaucratic determinations.

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A Little More On Edna Ferber

I’ve mentioned before – I’ve always liked novels by Edna Ferber. How she takes the story of a family and sets it against the background of an emerging territory, which by the book’s end will have become a state. Against this panorama, there is always the protagonist whose journey mirrors or contrasts with the growth of the land around him. He may a prospector or a drifter in chapter one – but at the close, he is a grandfather and a newly elected state senator. In The Northeast Quarter I decided to tell a Ferber story in reverse. I begin the empire and watch it collapse over the next ten years. Some characters fight to exploit it; others fight to save it. When the smoke clears, we’re left with a small handful. And they will have the strength and courage to survive and start over.

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