Across this central northern county, wind turbine blades slowly slice the cold air over winter-brown fields. The 67 wind turbines of the Meridian Way Wind Farm straddle dozens of farms and ranches, following the contours of the land and the eddies of the wind above it. The turbines are tall enough that their size is hard to gauge from cars driving by.
Their impact on the surrounding landowners is less hard to measure.
“I would say the absence of financial stress has been a real game-changer for me,” said Tom Cunningham,who has three turbines on his land and declined to give his age, saying only he is "retired." “The turbines make up for the (crop) export issues we’ve been facing.”
In an increasingly precarious time for farmers and ranchers, some who live in the nation’s wind belt have a new commodity to sell – access to their wind. Wind turbine leases, generally 30 to 40 years long, provide the landowners with yearly income that, although small, helps make up for economic dips brought by drought, floods, tariffs and the ever-fluctuating price of the crops and livestock they produce.