Elizabeth Royte | Modern FarmerFERN | December 2013 | 7 minutes (1,700 words)

For this week’s Longreads Member Pick, we’re excited to share early access to “The Post-GMO Economy,” a new story by Elizabeth Royte that will be published next week by Modern Farmer, in partnership with the Food and Environment Reporting Network.

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Thanks to Elizabeth Royte, Modern Farmer and FERN for sharing this story, and thanks to the Longreads community for your support.


As an invulnerable tween, Chris Huegerich, the child of a prosperous farming family, wiped out on his motorcycle in tiny Breda, Iowa. Forty years on, folks still call Huegerich “Crash.” And though he eventually went down a conventional path (married, divorced) and bought out his parents’ farm, Huegerich has recently reverted to his daredevil ways — at least when it comes to choosing what kind of corn to plant.

It’s late November, and Huegerich’s 2,800 acres in central Iowa have been neatly shorn to sepia-and-umber stubble. His enormous combines and cultivators have been precision parked — wheel nut to headlight — inside his equipment sheds. But in Huegerich’s office, between the fields and the sheds, chaos reigns. A dozen dog-eared seed catalogs litter a table, along with marked-up spreadsheets and soil maps. For farmers choosing next year’s crop, this is decision time.


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Photo by erdquadrat, Flickr