The Silent struggles of farmers
It's June 11th, 2019 and we still don't have corn or pumpkins in the field. If you aren't farming folk, you may not know what that means. Let me share some insight with you. We had a long winter, and while you may go, "oh ya, it snowed in May, crazy!" or "ugh ya, seriously can it be summer already?" The weather can be more than an annoyance or ruiner of family picnics.
Growing up a farm kid sounds like a fun life, filled with cute animals I get to name and hug, long days playing outside, a yard so big you are always on an adventure. And while that is part of it, there can be deep pain, stress, and sadness felt through the struggles of being a farm family.
There were days where rain was about to come so we worked through the dark to get the pumpkins planted, or the fertilizer out. There were days where we prayed for rain, and days when we prayed the rain would stop. Drought, floods, wind storms, early frosts, we were in the hands of nature. My older brother also chose the path of farming, and right now I can see in the worry lines on his face that this season may be the worst one yet.
Farmers all around us are behind on their planting schedule, which will cause repercussions on the market and their livelihoods. While some farmers, could switch to a crop like soybeans, the economic trade tensions have made the crop's price drop dramatically.
Not only are the summer crops being affected but this past harsh winter is still haunting farmers due to the damage in alfalfa fields. My parents and their friends are rushing around trying to find hay for their livestock, everyone is on their last flakes with little or none to be found. My parents have been trying to be inventive contacting city boards to let the grass grow on empty city lands rather than the city cutting the grass and allowing the farmers to harvest it for their animals.
The farming states' landscapes may no longer be covered in thick green corn or other crops, it might appear more of a barren wasteland, and we are just at the beginning. I sit here comfortably in my home in the city of Milwaukee, knowing I have an income and that the weather does not affect me, except for the occasionally missed flight connection when I travel for work. While I have stability, many others do not, particularly those whose occupation is in agriculture, both crop and livestock alike.
Despite my secure life situation, I still feel anxiety when the weather is not working as regularly as it should. I flash back to memories of us nearly drying up our well watering our crop to save it from dying. Nailing boards and insulation over the doors and walls of the goat houses to save them from the freezing winds of winter. Replanting after the rain washed the seed away, finding my parents arguing about finance, or a parent trying to not cry in front of their kids because they don't know if we will have a regular income that year.
While I could go into detail about the pain farmers feel, and the personal lives of my family I will not. I have been lucky to not lose an immediate family member to the extremes that depression can take, but many others have not been so blessed. As this season moves on, and the tariffs and odd weather continue, please keep farmers in your thoughts. Maybe subscribe to a farm magazine or newspaper, read the agriculture section and continue to remain aware of this struggling group of people.
Climate change is happening, it has shifted our growing seasons, and changed the weather patterns, wreaking havoc on the lives of farmers. They may not be a loud group, but they are important to the economy and a food source for our country. I am not sure how to end this article, but to share a favorite poem, "So God Made a Farmer,"(Paul Harvey, 1978). As you listen to it, think about all the women and men who farm today, and will be up first thing tomorrow feeding their animals and working the field.
God said, "I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, 'Maybe next year.' I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain'n from 'tractor back,' put in another seventy-two hours." So God made a farmer.