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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Most Harvest Public Media stories begin with radio- regular reports are aired on member stations in the Midwest. But Harvest also explores issues through online analyses, television documentaries and features, podcasts, photography, video, blogs and social networking. They are committed to the highest journalistic standards. Click here to read their ethics standards.Harvest Public Media was launched in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Today, the collaboration is supported by CPB, the partner stations, and contributions from underwriters and individuals.Tri States Public Radio is an associate partner of Harvest Public Media. You can play an important role in helping Harvest Public Media and Tri States Public Radio improve our coverage of food, field and fuel issues by joining the Harvest Network. Learn more here.

My Farm Roots: Coming Home to Roost

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

When they heard Dan Hromas’ truck rolling in, the chickens came strutting.

The auburn-feathered Rhode Island Reds stood out, even in the tall, green brome grass of Hromas’ rented 3-acre pasture outside of York, Neb.

The pasture is the center of Hromas’ new farming enterprise. For a little over a year he’s been selling farm eggs to local restaurants, grocery stores, and direct to customers in southeast Nebraska.

Hromas became a farmer after spending the better part of two decades as a soldier. Like farming, military service runs in the family. His grandfather served during World War II. His mother was a Marine. Hromas was even born on an Air Force base.

His military career took him far from where he and his parents grew up in Nebraska and North Dakota to Guantanamo Bay, Okinawa, and Malta. Then, in 2006 it took him to Iraq.

“It stunk like hell over there,” Hromas said. “You’d see burning trash out there and these scraggly dogs eating trash.”

When he returned to wife and children in Nebraska, Hromas said he felt restless. He had trouble holding down a job. He drove trucks at a few places.

Then he worked at a nearby dairy. Being around the cows took his mind back to the summers he spent on his grandparents’ farm in North Dakota.

“One of our favorite things to do on the farm was to look for eggs,” he said. “There were all sorts of different colors, green, blue, brown, white. Kind of like having an Easter egg hunt every day.”

Hromas decided he wanted to work for himself and he wanted to farm. But he couldn’t afford land or cows, so he started with chickens.

When Hromas walked from the truck to the egg-laying sheds the hens followed the way sheep might follow their shepherd. Inside, Hromas carefully reached under a nesting bird to pull out a perfect brown egg. The chickens depend on him for food, water and shelter. And they don’t just pay him back with eggs. Caring for them seems to give him a sense of mission.

“When you have somebody you’re responsible for on your left and right you don’t have time to be depressed or anything,” Hromas said. “That’s why I tell people: Boredom is the most hazardous thing to my health. I figured 500-some-odd chickens would keep me from being bored.”

It’s not a big row-crop farm like the old family operation now run by his uncles, but he still feels grounded by the connection the chickens make to his memories and his family’s legacy.

“Seeing these chickens here, the smells of the chicken coops, the chicken poop – it all takes me back to an earlier time,” he said. “It keeps my family’s memories alive.” 

Share your story: What do you remember most about growing up on the farm? Share your Farm Roots story here.

Click here to see more My Farm Roots stories.

Harvest Public Media's reporter at NET News, where he started as Morning Edition host in 2008. He joined Harvest Public Media in July 2012. Grant has visited coal plants, dairy farms, horse tracks and hospitals to cover a variety of stories. Before going to Nebraska, Grant studied mass communication as a grad student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and completed his undergrad at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. He grew up on a farm in southwestern Iowa where he listened to public radio in the tractor, but has taken up city life in Lincoln, Neb.