Change in the air

Through the flatlands south of Champaign, Illinois, County Road 1200 cuts a ruler-straight line, one of those byways in the American Midwest so devoid of curves that steering is almost optional. Heading south, one passes fields of corn, wheat, and soy, all neatly framed by telephone poles that stretch to the horizon.

In this monotonous landscape dominated by horizon, one field stands out from the rest. Behind a weathered gray barn, a circle of 8-foot-high white plastic pipes rises suddenly over rows of thigh-high soybean plants. It’s a jarring sight—a kind of modern-day technological Stonehenge.