Growing up on a farm, I never thought much about where food came from. We were busy following the rhythms of the land and seasons, and if you were hungry, you could just walk down the field and tear into an ear of corn or a garden-fresh tomato. When the custom cutters came through, things got exciting. Harvest meant a payday for my dad and grandpa, but it also meant strangers passing through, bringing their ways and ideas to our remote corner of Kansas, working side by side for a week or so before moving on. For a country boy with little experience and big ideas, it was the old-time romance of the road, with the added twist that these farmers had left behind them not some terrible past, but a small corner of the country or other that they loved best, just to make a decent living and see a speck more of the world. That was 25 years ago. Today, living in an urban environment in bountiful, beautiful southern California, it is fascinating to contemplate the lives of these stolid farmers: battling drought, insects, price fluctuation -- so much uncertainty for the slimmest of profits and the bittersweet reward of a life bound by blood and sweat to the land. I had been thinking about embarking on this project for several years now. Then one day last spring, I happened to mention it to my dad, who has been ailing in recent years. With one phone call to an old custom harvesting buddy, he put the whole thing in motion; We spent a week on the road, getting a start on what I envision as a multiyear project. In July, we jumped in the truck and made these images across 1,500 miles of record wheat harvest in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado.
Jeffrey Lamont Brown grew up on a farm in Dodge City, Kansas. After studying to be a civil engineer, he turned to photography, getting his start as a photojournalist for newspapers and magazines. Since then, he has worked to craft images that tell stories in a compelling and humane way. In 1997, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for a documentary about undocumented immigrants, and in 2002, he was shortlisted for a Fulbright scholarship for a documentary about sea turtle conservation and poaching in Baja California, Mexico. In recent years, he has concentrated on catalog and advertising projects while continuing to make photo essays and videos about environmental and social issues. He lives in San Diego with his wife, the writer and artist Jennifer de Poyen, and their two-year-old son, Sacha.