Weather

The Unfinished Harvest

Today, my husband made the call. The final call. The call to our insurance agents to come do a write-off on the fields the tornado ripped through on September 20th.

My mood has nose-dived. Tanked. I have been angry. I have been selfish. I have been completely devastated.

In my 28 (short) years of life, I have never not seen a crop harvested on these fields that have been part of my family’s history for over 100 years.

In our last-ditch attempt to harvest some, my husband watched the yield monitor, texting me telling me it isn’t good. Most of the corn is laying in the soil, unable to be picked up by the combine head. Then one snout broke. Too close to the ground trying to pick up a few more ears…any ears.

Well-meaning advice just made me angrier… “Rent a draper head.”  Yeah…not in this situation and the damage to the combine wouldn’t be worth it. “Buy a pick-up reel.” Because we can afford a $25,000 reel to be used on 3 of our 5 fields. “Slow down, you’ll get it.” We’re going 2mph.

Broken snout #2 trying to harvest downed corn.

We’ll try again. Fix the snout, on to the next field. What might have been bad advice by someone to set the head lower in an effort again to pick up more ears, resulted in another broken snout. There are only so many snouts you can go through cost wise before you say, something has to give.

We’ll try it one more time. Go over with the header even higher. Take just what is still standing, or half-standing after all this rain. Try one last time. Insurance will write off the rest. I’m not even going to think about things like bushels, yield monitors, or pretty green screens.

Devastating seems like the right word with all of this. I know, I know we will get an insurance check. This is why we have it. For catastrophic events like this.

But it isn’t the same. We worked so hard all year long…carefully choosing the right herbicides, fertilizers, precision applications. Selecting new varieties that were looking so amazing before the storm. Choosing variable rate seeding based on our different soil types. Installing tile for better drainage to give the crops a yield boost. Harvest is the time we see all that hard work come to fruition.

I’d liken harvesting that first field to a child waking up on Christmas morning. Everyone is eager to get in, to see what the yield is. You take pride in your harvest.

But not this time. This time, I feel like a failure. A crop that was so beautiful and then just like that, gone. We get a set amount, we don’t get to market our crop. We don’t get to put it in a bin. We don’t get to haul it to the ethanol plant. Every task on the farm that was a “job” now seems more like it was a blessing – we were given the ability to do so, now that opportunity is gone.

We’ve been finding random pieces of debris in the field from the tornado.

I have been trying to keep my anger in check. Although I know my husband has bared the brunt of a few of my arguments over all of this. I feel like it is giving up – bowing to the blow Mother Nature decided to deal us. And also this strange feeling of pride of this being land that my family has farmed for so long, that not harvesting it, is somehow dishonoring my family and their legacy. Not being able to have my daughter riding in the combine, combining the same fields her Grandpa did each fall, brings on a new and odd wave of guilt. The emotions with this harvest are running high. I have found too many people think farming is some glamorous lifestyle, and this stuff, the really hard stuff, is something they would never be cut out for. They won’t ever understand it. The struggle of what this life can truly be like is unnoticed by so many. That is okay. I’m not sure I would want them to have to go through this.

Regrouping. Sifting through my frustration, anger, worry and guilt has been a struggle. It still is every single day. I continue to write my grateful 5 each day – searching for the blessings every day instead of dwelling on what I cannot change. We have our house, our family…things could have been so much worse that night.

When your crop is laying on the ground, wiped out by something completely out of your control, taking the next step, moving forward, can be so difficult when all you want to do is cry. Tears come easy, smiles are few and far between, but clinging to hope for next year. Falling and getting back up, scraped knees and all, because you need to. Have to. That is the hard stuff.

-Sara

2014 Crop Season Update

#plant14 has been interesting so far. Mother Nature and Gremlins seem to have been against us all spring so far!

We had multiple things go wrong. Everything from flat tires to oil leaks to wheel bearings going out on the roller to bent cylinders and wire harness issues. I won’t go into detail on those. You’d probably cringe. I’m convinced Gremlins have found their way to the farm.

Replacing shovels on the cultivator

Replacing shovels on the cultivator

We also had very wet fields. Everything would look dry and crusty on top, then a few inches down…BAM…mud. This makes it extremely difficult to plow or plant, and our tractors were getting stuck left and right. With wet muddy fields, we can’t create the seedbed we need to either for our seeds.

We got most of our fields planted, except there are parts that we didn’t plant within the field. We had to pull up at the risk of getting stuck. We still have 1 field to finish. That is it, just one.

The Cat

The Cat

Mother Nature decided to open up the skies the last few days. Some areas got 7 inches of rain while others only a 1/4. We had flash flood warnings for our county. I drove past fields yesterday with water standing covering 3 acres or more. My heart hurts for those farmers that now have to make a decision to replant or take a crop loss.

Needless to say, its has been a difficult and trying spring. We still have a few hay acres to plant and one field of soybeans. I’m hoping this week/weekend we will be finished.

Cultivating a field getting it ready to plant

Cultivating a field getting it ready to plant

My handsome husband filling up the fertilizer spreader

My handsome husband filling up the fertilizer spreader

This spring has been SLOW going!

This spring has been SLOW going!

I hope your spring might be going a little better than ours! We are still hanging in there though!

-Sara 

 

 

Prevented Planting & Feed Shortages

You may have heard a lot of talk about prevented planting this spring. I was recently interviewed for an article on the hay and grain planting and harvesting issues that are already happening. You can read about that here. But what does prevented planting mean exactly and how does this impact you?

A lot of farmers were struggling to get into their fields this spring. We had 22 days straight of rain here in Minnesota in the month of May. That is a lot of rain. A lot of rain translates into wet fields. Wet fields means we can’t get into plant. Wet, muddy fields also mean that seeds don’t grow.

Here you can see some of the places our cultivator was getting stuck

Here you can see some of the places our cultivator was getting stuck

Crop insurance usually has plant-by dates, or dates that you have to have your crop in the ground to claim any type of insurance on them if something goes wrong (hail, wind, bug infestation, tornado, etc.) Once those dates pass, depending on your plan, your insurance can either refuse to cover your crop all together or start reducing the percentage that they cover it at.  For Minnesota, it is usually May 31st for corn and June 15th for soybeans.

Prevented planting is another type of insurance coverage that farmers carry in case they can’t get their crop planted by the specified dates. A lot of famers were in that boat this spring. In fact, our neighbors didn’t plant their 120 acre field because they couldn’t get in. That means a lot of farmers are leaving acres unplanted or are looking for alternatives to plant for a shorter or later growing season.

We were “lucky” (using that term loosely here) as we got our crop in. But that being said, we have areas of our fields that we had to leave unplanted because sections were still too wet. We have areas that we had to go in and try to replant, some were successful, others were not. We have areas in the fields with ruts from our tractor, cultivator and even planter getting stuck and having to work our way out. It is very likely that our crop won’t grow where this happened either. So lucky, yes, that most of our fields are planted, but it isn’t what we expected either and we have lost acres of crop because of it.

You can really see how wet & muddy the field is here. We had to leave portions of this field unplanted.

You can really see how wet & muddy the field is here. We had to leave portions of this field unplanted.

So what does this say for the future? It is already hitting livestock farmers that depend on crops to feed their animals. Barley, hay and alfalfa fields were hit particularly hard because of the fall/winter drought and then the wet and cold spring. Farmers are just now doing their first cutting, much of it very wet. Ditches are being cut all over the state to make forage for livestock. Some farmers are selling off portions of their livestock earlier than expected because they just can’t find or can afford the feed. Feed prices are rising because there is already a projected shortage of soybean feed come early September.  What will this do for crop prices come fall, I honestly can’t say.

Unfortunately, now that the weather is a little bit better and farmers are able to plant what could be turned into feed for their animals, there is legislation preventing an early harvest before November 1st. So that still puts farmers in a bind as they could plant but they can’t harvest the crop sooner for animal feed, even though they need it.

Feed elevators are starting to have to only sell to those who have contracts with them, because they are unsure if they can even meet the demand of those contracts in place. Some farmers are working to renegotiate contracts with their seed companies and salesman as they were unable to use some or all of their seed or needed to switch our corn for soybeans. Fertilizer and chemical companies often have contracts with farmers and some farmers now no longer need the same amounts or any at all as they had to leave fields unplanted. Some farmers have to contract their crop before its even in the ground to well, afford to farm, and now they will have contracts that they cannot fill but still must meet.

This is scary. This could mean that we have an influx of livestock on the market. Once that livestock is gone, you really can’t get it back. There could be a shortage of feed for all winter as acres are not being planted. There is a possibility that what crop is out there could be affected by elements such as rain, hail, wind, bugs, etc. and farmers could lose even more crop. There may be some farmers who cannot bounce back from this. That might be the scariest thought of all.

Am I praying that Mother Nature cooperates with us a little more the rest of the summer? You bet. Am I praying for my neighbors and their livestock? Definitely. Am I praying that my state government wakes up to what is happening and the implications of it a little sooner? Oh yes.

Mother Nature gets to decide whether this corn crop grows or not. We did have to switch acres from corn to soybeans due to the wet season.

Mother Nature gets to decide whether this corn crop grows or not. We did have to switch acres from corn to soybeans due to the wet season.

At the end of the day, Mother Nature is still in control and all a farmer can do is hope and pray. We can control our inputs to an extent then after that, we leave it up to the sun, rain and God.

-Sara 

Taken over by Winter in May

Only in Minnesota can you experience all 4 seasons in one week.

 Yeah, I’m nursing a peeling nose & forehead from the sunburn I received on Sunday while working in the garden while looking outside at a foot of snow. And more continues to fall.

Is it February or May? I’d post a photo, but you’d only get depressed right along with me.

Mark & I are set to run a 5K tomorrow in this mess, and then on Sunday its supposed to be back up in the 60’s?! Say what?!

Mother Nature sure knows how to fool all of us farmers who thought we’d be in the fields!

-Sara