It’s been raining a lot lately in northwest Minnesota. It’s not something I thought to write about before because the weather is such a regular part of farm life. Although, it’s also a crucial part of farming. And the more my city friends express interest in and discuss my involvement on the farm, the more I realize how we view weather so differently.
My friends and in-laws kindly ask “so, when will you start planting?”
“I don’t know.” I respond. I can’t be sure of exactly when until we are actually in the field.
In the city, a thunderstorm means a dreary—
Oh shoot! Checking the weather app on my phone. Pardon the interruption, I just remembered we left the power washer hooked up outside our farm shop. Freezing temperatures could rupture the hose and perhaps worse. But, not to worry, it appears the low is only 35 degrees tonight!
However, it’s still too cold and wet to start planting crops. In past years, we have been done planting by now. In other years, planting has started much later. There is still time. We just have to wait until the weather is right.
If it isn’t obvious, a lot of rain means the fields are too muddy. Our machinery would get clogged and stuck in the mud. It could also mean the newly planted seeds and freshly spread fertilizer is washed away. Freezing temperatures are also very threatening to germinating plants. If the crop is washed away or damaged, we would need to replant, which means double the cost of seed, fuel to run machinery, and labor; as well as wasted growing days for the crop to mature. Hopefully, the replanted crop can be harvested before the following winter sets in.
On the flip side, a weather crisis in another country is good for us. If Brazil suffers a drought, the projected world stocks in soybeans plummets, which means the demand and price for soybeans increases, translating to a larger profit for soybean farmers who have the yield to sell.
I have felt conflicted about the world market many times. On one hand, many farmers are happy to hear about weather issues in other parts of the world, because it means they will probably benefit. However, most of those seasoned farmers have suffered through at least one—if not many—difficult years due to drought, hail damage, flooding, frost…in addition to many other challenges outside of weather. It feels bad to be glad about some other farmer’s misfortune when we have experienced those hard times too.
I really do check my phone’s weather app quite often. The weather is so unpredictable, and the forecast sometimes seems to change drastically every few hours. And even though we want the rain to stop now, I won’t be surprised if we were begging it to rain later on in the growing season to quench the thirst of wilting crops.
Some people assume that because we have big tractors and grow GMO crops and spray “cure-all” chemicals, that farming is easy and risk free. While these things can certainly increase yield and production, we are still at the complete mercy of the weather!
Many farmers, I think, must have some strong faith or require thrill-seeking spirits to brave the unpredictable storms in farming.
Or perhaps a bit of both.