In this video, Greg Peterson talks about (among other things) the abundant rain they got the summer this video was made (2013). Rain is one of those uncontrollable elements that make farming difficult. In 2012, I witnessed the problems that occur when there is not enough rain. Drought that year had a huge impact on crops. However, this year (2015), as I visited corn country in Ohio, Indiana and Central Illinois, I discoverd that too much water can be even more devastating. I saw fields interrupted by great stretches of water surrounded by stunted, yellow corn stalks, and I learned from a number of farmers that crops were more harmed by excess rain this year than by the drought of three years ago. Farmers who depend on corn to feed livestock were talking about alternative sources of food for the winter, since the corn was so hard hit in some areas. Thank goodness there are alternatives to consider, but this is another reminder of how difficult farming can be.
One more thing to keep in mind when food prices fluctuate—nature is more often than not behind the shortages or abundance that we witness at the grocery store.
And now, August on the Peterson farm:
The town was founded in 1871 by a group of men known as “The Arapahoe Town Company”—and with great foresight, among the first things they staked out was the park that is still at the town’s center.
Among those to arrive in 1871 was Dominicus Hasty, who raised corn, of course, but also became a surveyor and pioneer of irrigation in the region. He was also the great-grandfather of my friend Jane, and Cathy’s grandfather. Cathy’s roots are deep here – which is probably why she ended up as president of the Arapahoe Historical Society.
A lot of the farms in this area practice what is known as dryland farming. That means not using irrigation, despite being in a fairly arid region, relying on a combination of rain and drought-resistant crops. Unfortunately, during a drought, this can hurt farmers. However, when the droughts get bad, even irrigation may not help, as the water one is allowed to pump out of the ground is limited.
Cathy’s property has both dryland and irrigated fields. There hasn’t been rain for a long time, and the unwatered fields look sad. The corn has come up, but it is already mid-June, and it’s clear that it’s not going to be “knee high by the fourth of July.”
Daytime temperatures are hovering around 100 degrees, and the hot, dry wind steals what little moisture is left. People watch the weather report with the intensity of listening for a serious medical diagnosis. Will it rain? Will it rain in time? The weather report is followed by a special feature on how long this can go on before it’s too late for crops to recover. Corn plants with crisp, curled leaves can still come back, but not if they go too far.
The irrigated fields look better, but will the drought mean water is rationed?
I’m reminded of an old saying: “Humankind, despite its artistic pretensions, sophistication and accomplishments, owes its existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains!” But when there is no rain…