No sun to set

Cover9179xCows grazing send their melancholy chords
From on the hill
Into the valley
Where all is still.

Descending from the wooded ridge
Grey mist brushes mute the palette.

Sun, today, has not chanced to live
And will not, in its splendored fashion, die
As night and Moon creep ever higher
Into Day’s grey sky.

Subtle transformation is achieved
As Day melts into Night.
Without its rainbowed Joy, it is bereaved
Of having lived as Light.

∼Sherry Bunting(c)2015∼

Ode to long days, warm sunshine… see you next spring.


We turned the clocks back today. And with that, summer officially fades into the fenceline. As north winds empty the rainbowed trees, cutting short our chances for Indian Summer in Pennsylvania, I am sorting photos for a newspaper story… flipping past those randomly shot from the road. It seemed like a good time to share something I wrote some time ago. A collection of random summer observations recorded while driving through America’s Heartland from deadline to deadline. Much of it the things you see, but don’t have time to stop for….

Farewell copious doses of Vitamin D… see you in spring. Meanwhile, I leave you with an ode to long days, warm sunshine, and rural life… 

Birds of flight soar between tufts of congregating clouds. Snowy white egrets glow sunset silver above crystal blue lakes… Appearing out of nowhere, they punctuate the landscape and reflect the vivid sky.


Working metal parked by barns take on the rust red hue.


Birds dance atop fields of corn … a burst of orange Tanager, brilliant Blue Bird, the acrobatic, ever-present Swallows, A woodpecker’s crisp white-wing slices  the air…


and swallow-like … the sweeps and turns of the yellow crop-duster — left side, right side. Now you see him. Now you don’t.


Sunlight plays off green waves of midseason soybean.

Corn, gold-fringe tasseled under the brilliant moon.


Tractors on a mission up and down the road… Everyone waves.


From Wisconsin to the Buffalo Ridge of Minnesota to Sioux Country and the Western Skies Scenic Byway…



Rolling, potholed landscape almost like that of the Dakotas — where wheatgrass shimmers silvery and sage brushes gold the green sheen dotted by low cedars. But in western Iowa, gentler are the dips melding to the flat, allowing crops to be planted in organized rows that curve to the contours of the land.



Proud large Hawk atop a Green Barn. No time to stop.

Cattle graze juxtaposed with large wind turbines of the Buffalo Ridge in Minnesota.


Rising tall and metallic from the green, grain elevators every 20 or 30 miles.

Lines of tractors and implements in a rainbowed density of reds, orange, greens and golds.


Small towns fringed with angularly parked pickup trucks – clods of dirt between treads as the creases of hard working hands at the wheel.

Flags diffuse light on front porches… proud fabric flies in the midst of cornfields, lining small town streets, atop grain elevators and silos.


Synergy: old barns juxtaposed with new. Wood, weathered by age, what stories have they seen, will they tell?

flag barn thingsyousee222








An old man’s grave from the 1800’s, buried right where he fell walking home from church… a family farming there now farms around the odd space each season.

From the pushed up earth to the flats where one imagines torrents of water resting to round sharp edges into mounds that become smaller as they come together in a swath that eventually lay across miles so flat as to suggest no horizon.

Radio on. Squawking the town’s happenings: a Saturday night fire hall dinner. The local softball standings. A community parade. Radio commentary so thick with farm talk and market reports, suggesting an area, an era, insulated from the coldness of an outside world depending on them for sustenance.


Delicate hues soften weathered wood.



Sandpipers and plover find morsels of grain amid a stiffened manure lagoon.

Two white ducks peer into a farm shop door. Two pigs laying on the concrete stare back… and the chorus that accompanies the leisurely standoff.

A sun-bleached road like ribbon punched through rain-fed emerald green soybeans disappears into another sea foam green of a grassy knoll, meeting the blended hues of the evening’s summer sky.




Buffalo Roundup x 2!

By Sherry Bunting (@agmoos)

Imagine millions of buffalo thundering across grasslands extending into what seems infinity….


There are a few billion more humans on the planet today than when settlers first homesteaded the Great Plains. Buffalo numbers dwindled, but over the past 100 years, herds like the one at Custer State Park, South Dakota, have bolstered the North American population to half a million. On September 25, a record 21,000 people watched 15 park staff and 30 volunteer cowboys and girls gather-in around 1200 head of buffalo during the park’s 50th annual Buffalo Roundup — a far cry from the 200 people attending the first roundup in 1965. While the roundup has a purpose for vaccinating, sorting sale stock and branding, it is an event shared with the public to appreciate.

A month-long process, actually, the work begins with locating the mythical beasts throughout the park so that on Roundup Day the groups can be easily brought together and pushed past droves of spectators to the corrals for the variety of annual management tasks. The event is both practical and “spiritual” notes Craig Pugsley with the park service.xxCusterRoundup3808

He has been here for 38 of the 50 annual roundups and notes that the attendance really ramped up after the movie “Dances with Wolves” recaptured America’s appreciation of the West and its buffalo.The event also spawns a weekend of art festivals and activities that bring end-of-season tourism dollars to the local economy.

So, ‘saddle up’ and ‘ride’ along !


The morning is crystal clear and cold. At 31 degrees, I need my ice scraper to lift the buff-blog-11frozen film of overnight dew clinging to the windshield!

By 6 a.m. as the line of cars snake into the park, the temp reaches 45. By noon, the temp tops 80!

Crowds assemble and enjoy a pancake breakfast. The media area includes journalists from around the world and two documentary film crews, including Smithsonian.

buff-blog-101 CusterRoundup-3803

buff-blog-100In the media area, we are each given a number designating a truck to hop on when the herd passes by… to follow along. 8 trucks. Lots of cameras.

custer-7A delayed start safely clears the park of vehicles and ridersCusterRoundup-3866 not working the roundup.

I fiddle with photographing grasslands onto which the thundering herd will appear. Rainbow ribbons of color evidence of the yCusterRoundup-3885ear’s moisture.



We wait… Then special guests arrive from down off Mount Rushmore. An entertaining foursome!buff-blog-12


Harbingers of the roundup to come, prairie dogs perch and listen while the ‘begging burros’ of the park high-tail it out ahead of the horsemen and a first set of buffalo on the ridge.  buff-blog-16 buff-blog-18 buff-blog-19

buff-blog-21That first glimpse of the accumulating herd… and then the flag bearers… light gleaming through proud fabric in the late morning sun.


flag 2


buff-blog-31 buff-blog-30 buff-blog-27

Things go smoothly until they reach the merging point when the run for the corrals gets intense. 40 odd head successfully double back a few times over the hill. This makes for some crowd-pleasing wrangling by core leaders of the cowboy brigade.



custer-66 custer-67 custer-68


There’s buffalo herd manager Chad Kremer on the dark horse.

buff-blog-60 buff-blog-59 buff-blog-58 buff-blog-57 buff-blog-56

buff-blog-40 buff-blog-39

buff-blog-42 buff-blog-55

Again the rebels break loose and double back. Bison run fast. Good horses and smart riders run faster and manage to head them off.




buff-blog-29The crowd goes wild when deer and antelope mix into the fray. Guess the park animals soon realize it’s not a normal day at the park!


buff-blog-75 buff-blog-74

Safety is critical… Riders learn behaviors to watch for as the buffalo mill about between two hillsides full of spectators.




buff-blog-81 buff-blog-79 buff-blog-77

A line of riders forms to protect the media after we have jumped off the trucks.


Once the Bison are well collected and moving together in the right direction, it’s time to squeeze them closer together and speed up the push to the corrals. Run the gauntlet, if you will. Don’t be fooled by the whips. They are used simply to make noise to get the bison moving in the desired direction for the desired goal.







buff-blog-3Buffalo — like other species living in finite resource areas — are as much mythical creatures as they are animals whose survival requires some practical management from humans. The Custer Buffalo roam 71,000 acres, but herd manager Chad Kremer and resource manager Gary Brundige evaluate the grasslands to decide how many buffalo to overwinter.


Using a random selection process, they pull for sale a portion of the calves of a certain weight as well as some of the non-pregnant females. They also pull a portion of the bulls to leave the herd with a 1 to 5 ratio of bulls to cows. The goal is to get the winter herd to a number that matches what the grasslands can support. For 2014 and 2015, the winter herd targets were 950. For the previous two years, the winter herd targets were 800 due to drought.

custer-115 custer-116 custer-117 custer-118 custer-119



, Custer State Park was established in the early 1900s after the 1874 Goldrush left in its wake a depression and decimation of resources, Pugsley explains. The Park was established by Governor Peter Norbech. 2014 was the Centenial Year for the buffalo herd’s reintroduction at Custer State Park. The bloodlines go back to 5 calves rescued by Fred Dupree from an 1881 buffalo hunt. Dakota territory rancher Scotty Philip eventually bought that herd (about 70 head). Then, in 1914, Custer State Park purchased from that herd as the root of the 1200 to 1400 head herd at the park today.


Pugsley gives both men a lot of credit for having the foresight to save the buffalo. Today, “the buffalo play a pivotal role at the park in managing the grasslands,” he says, adding that they are vaccinated to maintain a Brucellosis-free herd.

An auction in November of the animals selected for sale will yield funds going right back into managing the herd at Custer State Park. Buyers come from all over the world. The animals bring good prices as breeding stock and for harvest because of their management and the pure bloodlines back to original herds.



“There is a science to this,” says Pugsley. “Buffalo are nomadic. They move and graze. When managed properly, bison keep the grasslands healthy and the grasslands sustain the buffalo.

Perhaps most important, in the absence of predators “culling” the herd, or hunters as in the case of elk and deer; cowboys take care of managing the buffalo similar to the way they manage their cattle — so the herd can not only survive, but thrive.


use 1


use 3 use 5

other7863 other7708


Liberty born of the land, rooted in agriculture

By Sherry Bunting (Growing the Land in July 3, 2015 Register-Star)

“For our nation, for us all,” read the Marines billboard as I drove through the nation’s heartland. I turned the phrase over in my mind, thinking just what kind of courage, heart, and love of country it takes to serve in our nation’s military.

A rush of thankfulness flooded over me as the tires of my Jeep Patriot (yes, I’ll admit, part west-texas-sunsetof the reason I bought it was the name) ate the miles to the next destination,
and farmland stretched endlessly on either side of the highway.

I whispered ‘thank you.’

Tomorrow, our nation commemorates our Independence Day, and I think of the agraweb063A8492rian roots of Thomas Jefferson, the primary architect of the language so carefully chosen in our Declaration of Independence.

Liberty has proven for 239 years to be more than an ideal worth fighting — even dying — for, it is a condition of life in America that can be misunderstood and taken for granted.

With liberty, comes responsibility.WestPA7331

As I drove South this past week, my mind also pondered current events and the battle of Gettysburg turning the tide of the Civil War at this same spot on the calendar. This too is commemorated every July 4th weekend with re-enactments, lest we forget that our unity as a nation stood the test of valor and dignity from both sides — an internal struggle to recommit our nation to the freedom and responsibility of true liberty.063A1117xx

Traveling the country to interview and photograph agriculture from East to West and North to South, I am struck by the diverse beauty of both the land and the people in our United States of America. Diversity, too, is a key attribute of liberty.


Driving the long rural stretches of the prairies from the Midwest through the Great Plains — where one can go hours without see another vehicle — the bigness of this land and its call of freedom is, itself, liberating.

Whether it is the eastern patchwork of small farms living at the fringes of suburbia with subdivisions often sprinkled between them or the King6373western stretches of uninterrupted farmland — nothing speaks the quiet role of agriculture as the backbone of our nation’s liberty quite like hearing the farm report come on the radio several times a day while driving.


Thomas Jefferson once said that, “The earth is given as common stock for man to labor and live on.” He also held high the value of agriculture to the nation’s economy, which remains true centuries later in 2015.

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit because it will, in the end, contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness,” Jefferson wrote.


These are not idle words. In today’s times of rapidly advancing technology in everything from medicine to manufacturing to entertainment, many of us lack a full understanding of how advancing technology in agriculture ensures the long term sustainability of families farming for generations in the U.S. No other profession requires a business to purchase inputs at retail cost and sell output at wholesale prices. No other profession multiplies a dollar earned as many times throughout the local community.


Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: “The glory of the farmer is that, in the division of labors, it is his part to create. All trade rests, at last, on his activity. He stands close to nature; obtains from the earth the bread, the meat. The food which was not, he causes to be.”

In the East, we see this truth all around us. With over half of the New York State population residing in New York City and the other half throughout the rural lands upstate, the sustainability of food production, jobs and economic vitality rest on the shoulders of farmers as they work close to the land and its animals. In many years, farmers borrow on their equity and spouses take second jobs off the farm to get through years of crashing market prices, rising input prices and drought.


And yet, they continue to pursue efficiencies that allow them to produce ever-more food with less land, water and other natural resources per pound or bushel or ton of raw food commodity.


Farming is a business, and it is also a way of life. The success, ingenuity, work ethic and optimistic spirit of farm families provides the basis for our nation to remain free by remaining self-sufficient in its ability to feed its own people and the world.

“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interest by the most lasting of bands,” said Thomas Jefferson when American democracy was yet in its infancy.


Back to the American flags I see waving from farm silos and along city streets across our country…  Throughout the nearly two-and-a-half centuries since our July 4th birthday as a nation, American soldiers come from all walks of life and all regions of the country to protect our freedom. This includes a nearly 2-to-1 ratio of young men and women with roots and boots firmly born of farm and ranch living. That is amazing, considering that less than two percent of our population today is farming for a living.


As we celebrate with fireworks and backyard barbecues this weekend, we can remember who we are and what has challenged us in the past that American men and women sacrifice of themselves to protect liberty, that it may endure and shine light to each new generation.

A former newspaper editor, Sherry Bunting has been writing about dairy, livestock and crop production for over 30 years. Before that, she milked cows. She can be reached at



PHOTO CAPTION: Happy Independence Day! Sherry Bunting image.

The deeply rooted tree

Originally posted on Growing the Land:

Like the deeply rooted tree unleashing new blossoms of spring, Dad loved life. In his later years before the illness, he was an avid runner, taking in everything from 5k’s to marathons—even running 5 miles to work and home each day… He called running his “natural high.”


When we were growing up, Dad was the worrier, so it was surprising the way he let go of his worry and accepted my work with large animals. First it was the Vet-Science project at my 4-H leader’s farm. Then it was the work caring for camp horses and keeping them fresh with regular riding through the winter. Then it was the day I came home to tell him I took a job feeding and milking cows on a local dairy farm.

Dad didn’t understand these things that interested me, but he trusted me to do them just the same. After all, he had fostered my love for the written word and all those…

View original 781 more words

Flying the flag is like renewing a vow… to the next generation

In my travels, I see flags of all sizes and locations in rural towns and farmland. From the tops of silos to the hands of children…
flag19In 1776 a nation of immigrants sought it’s independence with the noblest of words written and deliberated in Philadelphia to be ultimately signed on July 4th. A year later on June 14, the stars and stripes design of our flag was approved by Congress.

But it was our 28th President Woodrow Wilson who reminded Americans at a turbulent time — in some ways like today — why our unity and freedom are so emblemed in Old Glory. flag4

President Wilson’s speech in proclaiming Flag Day on June 14, 1916 holds some words of wisdom for our times nearly one century hence:

My Fellow Countrymen:

Many circumstances have recently conspired to turn our thoughts to a critical examination of the conditions of our national life, of the influences which have seemed to threaten to divide us in interest and sympathy, of forces within and forces without that seemed likely to draw us away from the happy traditions of united purpose and action of which we have been so proud, It has therefore seemed to me fitting that I should call your attention to the approach of the anniversary of the day upon which the flag of the United States was adopted by the Congress as the emblem of the Union, and to suggest to you that it should this year and in the years to come be given special significance as a day of renewal and reminder, a day upon which we should direct our minds with a special desire of renewal to thoughts of the ideals and principles of which we have sought to make our great Government the embodiment.

I therefore suggest and request that throughout the nation and if possible in every community the fourteenth day of June be observed as FLAG DAY …flag12

 Let us on that day rededicate ourselves to the nation, “one and inseparable” from which every thought that is not worthy of our fathers’ first vows in independence, liberty, and right shall be excluded and in which we shall stand with united hearts, for an America which no man can corrupt, no influence draw away from its ideals, no force divide against itself,–a nation singly distinguished among all the nations of mankind for its clear, individual conception alike of its duties and its privileges, its obligations and its rights.

Yes, it’s near dusk on Flag Day 2015 as I write this, 99 years after President Wilson’s flag20observation and proclamation …. These words to give us pause to reflect and cause to see Old Glory flown high and to remember who we are and what has challenged us in the past that American men and women did sacrifice of themselves to protect that our freedom would endure and shine its light to each new generation.


flag6 flag8 flag18flag9  flag15flags3

June is dairy month… everywhere but New York City

By Sherry Bunting, June 5 Hudson Valley Register-Star

If milk is a never-ending tide, then the folks of New York City are the shore it rarely touches.

Not only has distribution into the city been a long term issue, which has improved, today’s urban consumers simply don’t know what they are missing. The dairy industry has, for too long, assumed people know what is in — and out — of real dairy milk!

Last week, local dairywomen Beth Chittenden and Sandy Ferry took more than a dozen “Dairy Vision” youth to NYC to “focus on food and learn about our consumer,” according to Chittenden. An outgrowth of the local 4-H program, youth do not need to be 4-H members to participate in this stepping-stone to the Junior Dairy Leaders program. They meet once a month to focus on different career paths.KIMG0362

“We are closest to the city and yet the lack of dairy in the stores was totaling amazing to these kids,” Chittenden reports. “No milk was found in most of the bodegas, just a couple containers of yogurt and not much cheese, generally, either. People in the city are not used to having milk, which goes back to the distribution issues that linger yet today.”

It’s not like you can walk into a Stewarts and buy milk, chocolate milk, strawberry milk and shakes or into a Mobil gas station to take home a gallon. NYC is different. The only place gallons can be found are in Whole Foods and a few other grocery stores, but not to the quantity and variety found locally and not at convenient corner shops.

The shelf space there is four feet by three feet and that’s it, Chittenden explains. Each kind of milk gets one space. The rest is all almond, silk and soy, and the huge word in the city is “organic.”

“A whole market is being missed here by not getting milk into the city. That is 55 percent of our state’s population,” Chittenden observes. The milk from her family’s Dutch Hollow Farm goes to make Cabot cheese as well as to New York City’s famous Beecher’s Handmade cheese on Broadway. It also goes to Hudson Valley Fresh, which delivers fresh milk to many of the city’s coffee houses.

Chittenden makes regular trips to NYC to talk with vendors and consumers. “We need to change the attitudes in NYC because people don’t know the nine essential nutrients real dairy milk contains. They don’t know that all dairy milk is higher in protein than the competing ‘non-milks.’ So Hudson Valley Fresh has started labeling the grams of protein on the front of the bottles and is using the 9-essential-nutrients post card in the stores,” she explains.Ray Shenk 7.14.06

The Dairy Vision students were also surprised to learn that consumers believe conventional dairy milk to be “full of chemicals.” As we kick off June Dairy Month, one of the biggest messages Chittenden and others carry forward is how all dairy milk — organic and conventional — is tested at the farm, on the truck, at the plant, in the bottle to be free of antibiotics or any other chemicals for that matter.

She notes that many consumers believe almond milk to be a healthier choice, but don’t realize dairy milk has more protein, more nutrients, less fat and no added sugar. And, it supports jobs and economic development right here in New York State. Not so with almond and other non-dairy juices referred to as ‘milk.’

“We told the kids ‘this is your future, and it is one that we need to change,’” said Chittenden. “We can’t assume consumers know. The whole concept of milk is different in NYC than it is in the rest of NYS.”

Another aspect of milk’s future is to find a pathway to the poor. While agriculture trade groups have worked to get fruits and vegetables in the Food Banks, dairy milk is the most requested product that is not available at Food Banks. The Great American Milk Drive is an effort to change that, but more needs to be done to get the world’s most healthful and nutrient-packed beverage into the hands of families who depend on Food Banks.

Chittenden says the Dutch Hollow Day at the Dairy on August 1 will feature a Great American Milk Drive display with opportunities to help.

Juxtaposed with the lack of milk availability in the city is the current flood of milk in New York State. Some of the state’s dairy farms have been asked by their handlers to randomly dump milk over the past year due to an excess supply made worse by distribution issues in getting it to populations like NYC. Farms have been cut off with no market in Central New York as well as to the south in Pennsylvania. In some cases, dairy farming on land stewarded by families for generations is in jeopardy. Some have sold their cows, others take it day-to-day wondering if they will have a market for the milk.

Dairies are not widget factories. Cows are like family. They must be fed and cared for whether their milk has a home or not. They can’t be turned off and on like a spigot.

Included in the Dairy Vision students’ NYC trip was a visit to Beechers Handmade cheese, where they observed cheesemaking behind the glass. This has been a great story of connection between the Hudson Valley and NYC. Milk comes in daily by the tanker load right to 28th and Broadway.KIMG0359 KIMG0360

If Beechers can do it, why can’t it be done elsewhere in the city? Why is milk not in the stores? Changing this dynamic begins with telling real dairy milk’s story every place possible. Not only does the health and nutrition of future generations of consumers benefit, but the generations of future farmers and the New York State economy depend on this as well.

New York State is the third largest state for milk production in the country. This June Dairy Month, take time to learn and tell the story of milk. You would be surprised how many people have forgotten that the ThinkDrink-MilkAlternative (1)simplest, least fooled-around-with beverage on the planet also delivers nutrition and flavor that can’t be beat and is an integral ingredient in many of the foods, jobs, and economics that sustain us here.

A former newspaper editor, Sherry Bunting has been writing about dairy, livestock and crop production for over 30 years. Before that, she milked cows. She can be reached at


PHOTO CAPTION: June is Dairy Month and local dairywoman Beth Chittenden led a Dairy Vision students’ trip to New York City last week, where students learned how half of the state’s population has a different concept and availability of real dairy milk compared with the other half in New York State where jobs, farms, rural economies and land sustainability rely on dairy. Sherry Bunting photo.