Dodge County, Incorporated

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Dodge County, Incorporated

Big Ag and the Undoing of Rural America

Sonja Trom Eayrs
With assistance by Katherine Don

326 pages
17 photographs, 1 table, 4 charts, index

Paperback

November 2024

978-1-4962-3499-5

$24.95 Pre-order

About the Book

In 2014 Sonja Trom Eayrs’s parents filed the first of three lawsuits against Dodge County officials and their neighbors, one of the few avenues available to them to challenge installation of a corporate factory near their intergenerational family farm in Dodge County, Minnesota. For years they’d witnessed the now widely known devastation wrought by industrial hog operations—inhumane treatment of animals and people, pollution, the threat of cancer clusters, and more. They’d had enough. They also deeply understood an effect of Big Ag rarely discussed in mainstream media—the hollowing-out of their lifelong farming community and economy in service of the corporate bottom line.

In a compelling firsthand account of one family’s efforts to stand against corporate takeover, Dodge County, Incorporated tells a story of corporate malfeasance. Starting with the late 1800s, when her Norwegian great-grandfather immigrated to Dodge County, Trom Eayrs tracks the changes to farming over the years that ultimately gave rise to the disembodied corporate control of today’s food system. Trom Eayrs argues that far from being an essential or inextricable part of American life, corporatism can and should be fought and curbed, not only for the sake of land, labor, and water but for democracy itself.
 

Author Bio

Sonja Trom Eayrs is a farmer’s daughter, rural advocate, and attorney. She is involved in several rural advocacy organizations, including the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, Farm Action, Land Stewardship Project, and Dodge County Concerned Citizens. Trom Eayrs also serves as the business manager for the Trom family farm in Dodge County, Minnesota.
 

Praise

“Sonja Trom Eayrs has written a fast-paced legal thriller, filled with a few good guys and too many villains. I wish it was fiction, but it isn’t. Dodge County, Incorporated exposes the connection between lax regulation of a dangerous type of farming and the disastrous consequences to human health and the environment. . . . Buy it; read it; this is an important book for urban and rural people.”—Sarah Vogel, author of The Farmer’s Lawyer: The North Dakota Nine and the Fight to Save the Family Farm

“Written with passion, meticulously researched, and vibrantly told, Sonja Trom Eayrs’s Dodge County, Incorporated gives a riveting insider’s account of how major food corporations infiltrated rural communities, hollowing out their economic vitality and leaving behind environmental ruin. The story of the Trom family farm and its intergenerational legacy draws us in, showing how individual lives have been harmed by the food monopolies. This is a must-read for anyone wanting a behind-the-curtain understanding of why rural farm communities are struggling—and a blueprint for reclaiming rights and equitable opportunities for family farmers.”—Joe Maxwell, cofounder of Farm Action

“Family farms have historically been a source of wealth and power in rural America. But greed and greater corporate consolidation in agriculture have hollowed out rural communities and forced family farms out of business. Sonja Trom Eayrs rings the alarm in Dodge County, Incorporated, speaking poignantly from her personal experience about how the American dream in southern Minnesota has been taken away from so many. It also reminds us that the people have the power to fight back and reclaim our broken food system for farmers, rural communities, and all Americans.”—Cory Booker, U.S. senator (New Jersey) and member of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry

“Sonja Trom Eayrs draws a straight line between the stranglehold of Big Ag and the cruelty, stink, rampant waste, and degradation of water and land that plagues America’s heartland and threatens the livelihood of America’s independent family farmers.”—Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States

“This book is an absolutely urgent warning sent from America’s heartland. Sonja Trom Eayrs has spent years fighting the corporate takeover of the rural community where she grew up, and the story she tells here is riveting. This is a real-life David and Goliath story that matters to everyone who eats and everyone who cares about the future of farming and small-town America. While the pollution, animal cruelty, and exploitation of Big Ag can be dismaying, the fighting spirit of Trom Eayrs and her neighbors is truly inspiring.”—Christopher Leonard, New York Times best-selling author of The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business

“For more than a generation, the relentless—and reckless—profiteering of Big Ag corporations has decimated the rural economy, hollowed out tightly knit communities, and turned once-proud independent farmers into modern incarnations of the sharecropper and the serf. . . . Sonja Trom Eayrs brings this Kafkaesque upheaval to life in a narrative as personal as it is essential. Hers is the story of one farm family’s stand against a multi-billion-dollar global juggernaut, a searing indictment of Big Ag’s rapacity and greed, and an inspiring vision—still a ways off but attainable—of a food system and a rural landscape redeemed from the oppressor’s hand.”—Corban Addison, author of Wastelands: The True Story of Farm Country on Trial

“A riveting tour of one family’s journey fighting the barons that control our food system.”—Austin Frerick, author of Barons: Money, Power, and the Corruption of America’s Food Industry

Dodge County, Incorporated is the wrenching saga of how the rise of industrialized hog farming upended the work and the quality of life of a multigenerational Norwegian farm family in rural Minnesota. But as Sonja Trom Eayrs relates to us in her gripping account, the Trom family is just one of many rural families thrust into crisis in recent decades by dangerous changes in agriculture. These mega-farms do indeed produce more pork, much of it bound for Mexico and Japan and China, but they leave a trail of victims in America’s backyards. Communities hollow out, with the holdouts unable to fill the pews, not able to keep the hardware stores open, and too scattered to help raise a barn. This book is a firsthand account of an unfolding crisis and a wake-up call to policymakers that the industrialized model of agriculture is a cancer in rural America.”—Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy and New York Times best-selling author

“Sonja Trom Eayrs’s Dodge County, Incorporated is a rare firsthand, blow-by-blow account of the battles of a farm family and their neighbors defending themselves against the environmental and public health threats of large-scale, corporate-controlled concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. The book also reveals the global context within which these local battles are fought . . . [and] the inhumanity, if not outright evil, that seems an inseparable aspect of industrial animal agriculture. Trom Eayrs’s book is particularly compelling because hers is a story of a conventional farming family that, when surrounded by CAFOs, decided to take legal action and discovered the corporate takeover of their county.”—John Ikerd, professor emeritus of agricultural economics at the University of Missouri–Columbia

“Sonja Trom Eayrs is a  CAFO-fighting whirlwind; she has the heart of a farmer’s daughter, the mind of an experienced attorney, and the will of someone who knows in their bones they are right. And she is right. Her Dodge County, Incorporated exposes Big Ag’s do-anything, community-destroying fight to impose its cruel industrial meat and poultry systems on America. Her vivid writing, detailed reporting, and deep honesty brighten every page of this important untold story.”—Alan Guebert, columnist and author of The Land of Milk and Honey

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Author’s Note
Acknowledgements
Introduction: A Readiness for Responsibility
 
Part I: The Takeover
Chapter 1. Moving to the Country
Chapter 2. Fertile Soil
Chapter 3. The Big Pig Pyramid
Chapter 4. The Meeting at Lansing Corners
Chapter 5. Get Big or Get Out
Chapter 6. The Battle in Ripley Township
 
Part II: The Lawsuit
Chapter 7. The Economics of the Great Pig Explosion
Chapter 8. Federal Policy: In the Tank for Big Ag
Chapter 9. Getting to Know Your Neighbors
Chapter 10. Industry Watchdogs
Chapter 11. Risk of Pollution
 
Part III: The Resistance
Chapter 12. Don’t Drink the Water (or the Kool-Aid)
Chapter 13. The Corporate Bully
Chapter 14. In The Trenches
Chapter 15. The Three-Day Stink Out
 
Part IV: The Reclamation
Chapter 16. Corporate Indoctrination
Chapter 17. The Pork Board
Chapter 18. Feed the World
Chapter 19. On the Frontlines
Chapter 20. Expanding the Corporate Empire
Chapter 21. A New Vision for Farm Country
Notes
Index

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