a day with the new breed of county agent,
The spreading suburban sprawl west of Omaha makes Vernon Waldren mildly uncomfortable. Not that he's against progress. For a farm boy who grew up in a Kansas county with a total population of 2,000, he understands the demographics of urban expansion very well.
Waldren is an agricultural extension agent for the most crowded county in Nebraska. Of the 425,000 people in Douglas County, two-thirds live within the city limits of Omaha. The problem, in Waldren's eyes, is the lack of planning. As a product of the land, he knows the tension between urban and rural growth and that land does not stand idle very long in the farm belt.
From his car window Waldren points to the scoured ground of a new housing development at the edge of the city. Condominiums and apart-ments are growing there, sprouting playground sets and barbeque grills.
"Look," he says, "my neighborhood is moving outward too, but right here is good soil, and until recently it was producing good crops. They could have built these homes over there a few miles on less productive land and solved everybody's problems."
In spite of Omaha's horizontal drift, there is an openness than can hardly be imagined on the seaboards of the country. The flat land disap-pears into a ruler-straight horizon. From the air, countless rectangles form a random grid of brown and green, connected by the ruled lines of secondary highways and county roads. There is order here, maintained with meticulous care. But even in Nebraska, land is not limitless.
It is this fact, perhaps, that is a source of discomfort for Waldren and others in the rural community. They believe thai most of the 222 million consumers in the U.S. do not understand the importance of the food production system. There is a disturbing mythology about farmers and farming, they think, that is perpetuated inadvertently by government and mistakenly by the consumer in the grocery checkout line. Government