Wednesday, August 8, 2012

An Optimistic Drought

Each morning for the past couple of weeks I have walked across the crunchy grass in my yard, taken a deep breath of the dusty air and looked at the brown pastures surrounding the house, one thought always crosses my mind. Boy, do I have a lousy sense of timing. I left a good job to farm full-time during one of the hottest, driest summers in recent history. However, that thought is very fleeting and is always replaced by the knowledge that I am doing what I have always wanted to do.
Sure the pastures are shorter than I would like and the grass is browner. Each time I go check cows I have a sense of dread when I look at my ponds. The cows register their complaints with me each time they see me. I am not sure where they want to go, but they want to get there as quickly as possible. The grass across the fence really is greener (at least in their little cow minds, it is).
And the crops, well, I have decided to start wearing a blind fold to check crops. I think the corn might be better than I think it is, but I am not looking at it. I want one pleasant surprise this fall. The beans have been clinging to green for weeks but spots of brown have began to creep into the fields. We just finished baling hay and I feel very fortunate that we did not start a fire.
It is awfully easy to let yourself get down and focus on the gloom and doom of the current weather situation. Each night I am glued to the weather, watching, hoping and hanging on each chance of rain. Then each time the rain misses us, it would only be human nature to be disappointed and angry (I have climbed to the top of the barn just to make sure we don’t have a dome covering the farm).
Those of us in agriculture are at the mercy of the weather. Dad has reminded me more than once that the weather is the one thing we cannot control. Although some in our midst think that we can contribute to the warming of our climate, I disagree. I do not have any evidence; I just think it is amusing that we think we can influence the ebb and flow of the temperatures and rainfall. Soon we will be in a cool wet weather pattern.
But I digress; my feelings on climate change are not the focus of this column. While it would be easy to get caught up in a feeling of hopelessness, I have not. Why? I am not sure. Call it a sense of optimism present in all farmers and ranchers or maybe it is because I am loopy from the heat, but I am already looking toward next year and the promise it brings.
That focus on the future may be the secret to our longevity in agriculture. We are in it for the long haul; we are in a family business that has been with us for generations. We have the comfort of knowing that our great grandparents, grandparents and parents have been through the same cycles of drought and heat and the farm is still standing.
We have a track record that tells us that as bad as the situation might be right now, it will get better. Soon the temperatures will cool off and the rain will start to fall. My guess is that soon we will be worried about the cool temperatures and surplus of moisture (I am really  ready to be cold and wet). The one bright spot to this drought is that it seems the rest of the country has recognized just how important agriculture is.
Most of the networks have run stories on the drought. Their coverage has included the fear of food prices rising, but the stories I have seen also have included a concern for the farmers and ranchers. The farmers and ranchers interviewed for those stories have also conveyed one common theme, optimism.
The sense of optimism is why I am a proud producer of the food we all need. Today is hot, dry and tough, but tomorrow will dawn with the knowledge that the conditions will improve, we will raise a crop and my farm will continue. Just today, I noticed three chances of rain and temperatures in the 80’s for next week. Things are looking up already.

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