For half a century, Tim Hemphill grew corn and soybeans on his 720-acre farm in northern Iowa. Then five years ago, as he readied his son to take over the business so he could retire, catastrophe struck: Local corn prices plummeted. “It was about the worst thing that ever happened to farmers,” he says. And it’s happening all over the country: Slumps in commodity prices, paired with rising costs of pesticides and seeds, have driven many small farms out of business, and according to the Department of Agriculture, farmers’ earnings are projected to drop nearly 9 percent in 2017.
Luckily, the Hemphills had another source of income. Around the same time Hemphill retired, he connected with a company called Lost Lakes Wind Farm. He jumped at the chance to lease three acres of his property to Lost Lakes, and now two turbines yield Hemphill about $20,000 a year to supplement his Social Security checks. Hemphill’s son still farms around the structures, and the family barely notices them—except for an occasional whirring sound.
Wind farms have caught on throughout Iowa, not only bringing a much-needed boost to farmers, but also generating county tax revenue to fund school and road improvements and adding new jobs. Iowa now gets 36 percent of its electricity from wind, a higher percentage than any other state, even California…
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