Back in the mid 80s, about the time Wisconsin’s Driftless Area began attracting all manner of artists, natural foodies, Amish, and seekers of simpler life—many of them Ben Logan enthusiasts—we were *this* close to joining the movement.
My husband and his family had recently quit dairy farming and a cattle semen company, ABS Global, offered him a position as an artificial inseminator. My husband was offered either of two regions: northwest Wisconsin near Chetek or southwest Wisconsin in the Driftless Area. As bright-eyed 24-year-olds with three kids, this new adventure felt at once exhilarating and terrifying. We didn’t know anything about either region, but we chose the Driftless because there were more dairy farms per square mile and it was closer to home.
In the summer of that year, my husband and I made many trips to the Driftless. We wandered the countryside, between ridge tops and valleys, looking for the best place to settle our young family. Richland Center, Hillsboro, Wonewoc, La Valle—these community names meant nothing to us except that they were surrounded by the most beautiful land. We fell in love with the Driftless.
As life would have it, we never did make that move. My husband came upon another opportunity closer to home; one offering greater financial security and a chance to raise our kids near their grandparents. It turned out good. Nonetheless, even though we never became official Drifters, we also never lost our love for the Driftless.
These days we’re Drifter Wannabees. We’re the ones who come feeling connected to the land, not because we live there but because we share a passion for it. We find romance in its unique topography, its geological and anthropologic history, the caring and resilient mindset of the people living there today.
These days you can also count me in as a fan of author Ben Logan, thanks to my growing collection of Driftless literature and my work with Fermentation Fest (check out the opening article in this year’s guide, page 5). I’m currently immersed in The Land Remembers, a memoir of growing up in the 1920-30s on his family’s hilltop farm in southwestern Wisconsin. It’s beautifully written. Poetic, simple but eloquent, and Logan’s relationship to the land is both moving and motivating.
So today I say happy birthday, Ben Logan. He would have been 100 years old. This year also marks the 45th anniversary of The Land Remembers’ first publication. Half a million copies and many editions later, it still evokes meaningful conversation.
The land touched Logan’s heart. I wonder if he fathomed how his writing would touch ours?