family farms

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

Keep Families Farming

How many of you have heard about the new child labor law regulations regarding family farms? 

If you haven’t please go visit this website HERE

I cannot stress enough how utterly wrong these proposed regulations are. If they would get passed, Derek, Mark’s cousin who has been helping Hewitt Farms since he was 13 would no longer be able to help drive tractor or help work on equipment or anything of the sort. His work on the farm has been a learning experience for him about responsibility, safety and education. The money he earned, help him purchase his 1st vehicle when he turned 16 last year. Its okay for him to drive a huge truck according to state law, but not a tractor according to these new regulations. 

My niece, who is 6, wouldn’t be able to help feed our chickens or rabbit. She loves our silkies, whom she has named- Ruby, Glitter and Lola. Waffle, our rabbit, who gets shown in 4-H, would no longer be able to get shown and my niece wouldn’t be able to help with her. 

I was able to raise 5 cattle from baby on while I was in high school, and use the money for college. It taught me responsibility, the value of life and what it meant to be involved in something bigger than me. If these regulations go into action, I would have never been able to do that. 

4-H and FFA would cease to exist as the kids showing these animals would no longer be able to do so. Now think about that the next time you go to visit your county fair! No animals! 

Any equine facilities that you child may take riding lessons at and then help untack her horse or give her oats- nope, not happening! 

I urge you to visit that website or their Facebook page to see what you can do to help! Post it on your Facebook, send a letter to your newspaper…ANYTHING! 

Just realize that if these regulations go into action they will affect EVERYONE and not for the better!