Back When I was Young...|
As a kid, when people used to begin a sentence with “Back when I was young . . . “, I thought those people were SOOO OLD!
Now it’s me saying “Back when I was young, I remember . . . . blah, blah, blah.”, and I’m only 51! And picture this, Kevin and I have rocking chairs on our verandah where we sit in on warm summer evenings, listening to the birds and speculating about the universe. Have we become Ma and Pa Kettle? All we need to do is put on our coveralls, twang a country tune and chew a stem of wheat straw to complete the vision. Erf!
Kidding aside, we are at the stage of our farming careers that we can look back and see patterns and trends over the last 24 years. We haven’t attained the wisdom of Kevin’s dad, who at 87, can tell us so many things about what the crops were like over the last 70+ years, the floods, the droughts, and the progression of tractors and combines over the decades, but we sure know more now than we did then.
We are in a drought cycle again. It started about three years ago based on rainfall accumulation, in our estimation. Lucky for us, we’ve been able to grow crops based on timely rains and moisture reserves in the soil for the last few years. But that’s dried up in 2021 and drought is staring us in the face. Again.
You see, drought was how we started farming 23 years ago. As new farmers, our timing sucked. Our first six years of farming included one bumper crop, one average crop and four droughts complemented by plagues of grasshoppers and low commodity prices from 1998 to 2004.
(Photo above: My drought stricken, grasshopper-chewed, very sad tomatoes in 2001)
Somehow, we scraped by. While I looked after our toddlers, Kevin spent sleepless nights applying to government programs and carefully cash flowing our expenses and revenue. Would you believe that we lived on $1000 per month as a family in our first few years of farming? That's crazy talk now.
It seems drought shows up every 20 years, give or take. Kevin remembers drought as a kid on the farm in the 80’s. We experienced it in the early 2000’s and it’s back again.
While the drought cycle is here right on time, we don’t know how climate change will prolong or exacerbate weather events and cycles beyond what we have experienced in the past. It frightens me just a bit as I read the news. While we can’t beg a drop of rain here and wildfire smoke chokes our throats, Germany is flooding. My brother, who lives in Alabama, told me they received 9.5 inches of rain in one day on the edge of a tropical storm. It’s unheard of!
I’m praying for rain and hoping the grasshoppers stay away. We also need to take action collectively, right now, to slow down climate change. Pine View Farms is not perfect by any means, but over the years, our life experiences have validated this notion of sustainability ---- that whatever we do, it needs to be economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.
Sustainability permeates our decisions around how we raise our animals, how we pay employees a living wage, implement our environmental farm plan, use all parts of the animal to reduce food waste, invest in solar energy and plant a poplar tree forest to reduce and/or offset our carbon emissions. There is more to do.
When all feels hopeless, I remember the Margaret Mead quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
Against the odds, my relentless hope remains this --- faith in people to do the right thing and the next right thing. May hope rain down on us all this summer.