About nine years ago, a group of Iowa Farm Bureau members toured several Ukraine farms as part of a market study tour to learn about farming practices in the Black Sea region, which was emerging as a global competitor to Iowa crop exports. 

One of the farms they visited was that of Kees Huizinga. 

For the past couple of weeks, Huizinga has been tweeting and blogging about his experiences since Russia invaded Ukraine. 

There has been a lot of focus on market volatility in the wake of the war, but Huizinga’s perspective paints a stark picture of the human impacts. A city near his farm has been the target of Russian assaults. 

“As the bombs dropped on Thursday, the windows and doors of my house rattled. We saw smoke rise in the distance. We heard the roar of rockets overhead,” he wrote last week in a blog posted on the Global Farmer Network website.

Huizinga said his wife and kids fled their home to seek safety in Romania, while he stayed behind to tend to the farm, where he milks 2,000 cows and grows wheat, barley, canola and more. 

“Planting usually begins by the end of March or the beginning of April. I don’t know if any of this will be possible this year. I don’t know what the next hour holds for us, let alone tomorrow or next week or next month,” he wrote. 

Ukrainian farmers are resilient, he said, but war threatens to spin the country into famine if farmers can’t plant the rich, black soil in a country known as the Breadbasket of Europe. 

For farmers like Huizinga and every Ukrainian resident, a diplomatic end to the violence can’t come soon enough.