A legendary farm girl discovered that there's no place like home, and it's because of the people who live there.

The culture of agriculture is a crucial element of American heritage, shaping our land, our lives, and our values. This way of life has been passed down, like the family farm, through generations. Farmers do far more than cultivate crops - they nurture entire communities. They are a quiet and steady influence that is easily overlooked, but vastly important to the well-being of society.

Our nation's farms are vanishing at a rapid pace, and the family farm is at the forefront of this landslide. While the statistics speak volumes, the best way to communicate the value of this dwindling resource is to share the stories of farmers who have, in many different ways, touched the lives of those around them.

These are humble, hard-working people who love what they do. They are the soul of the place we call home.

This website is one tool in service of their stories. The other elements include a video presentation, a printed magazine, a 10-part radio series (which is also featured here) and a traveling photo exhibit.

The prime component of this project is the human element -- personified by the people of the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy who sponsored this journalistic documentary -- and the unique community of Northwest Michigan.

The challenge in a project of this scale is to call forth the spirit of farming, to show its depth, complexity and contribution to community. We think you'll agree that farming is more than food, more than scenic views, more than a business. The family farm is a social institution, run by people who value their neighbors. The qualities that suit them to farming -- patience, diligence, practicality, generosity, faith -- underscore their contributions to community.

If the family farm is consigned to the shelf of history, the nation loses a place the American ethic grows.

If you shed a few drops of empathy when you experience these stories, we hope you will have felt some of what we enjoyed in these farmers' company. We hope we have presented them in a sincere, respectful manner.

If these stories touch you, don't let the feeling pass. Take a few moments to learn more about farmland, your own community and your neighbors on the farm.