If you haven’t heard already, much of the Midwest is in a severe drought. Two summers ago, our county in southeast South Dakota received nearly 30 inches of rain in the months of June, July and August. This year, we’ve felt the cooling touch of just under two inches.
2010 was abnormal in the greatest sense of the word. Nothing like that has ever happened before and no one really expects anything quite like that to happen again. But droughts are part and parcel for the course of a South Dakota farmer’s life.
The last big drought was in the 80’s. Farm Aid took off then though many lost their farms. I am no farmer, nor did I grow up on a farm. Raised in rural Kansas though, many of my friends were farm kids and now I’ve married into a farm family and so I’ve grown to understand at least a bit of the life of a farmer.
One thing I have learned for sure is that farmers, for the most part, are long on faith. They plant a crop with no real guarantee that anything will come up, or if it does, whether or not it will produce a crop.
This year is a the type that puts that faith to the test. The corn came up but then the skies locked up, withholding the rain needed to fill out the cobs, which now resemble mutated dwarves of the corn they should be. There will be no bumper crop this year.
And so with the bald news of a ruined crop, the farmers in the area do what farmers do best. They move forward, make some hard choices and begin to cut their corn into silage.
Silage is ground up corn – the whole plant – which is covered and left to ferment and which makes a nutritious feed for cattle. Cattle prices are up, there’s not much grass left in the pastures and the price of corn is going up too. So silage makes a lot of sense.
When bad things happen those who can make the most of it and move forward will often come out ahead.
We can’t make it rain, so there is not much else to do. We just got to take the lemons life hands out and do our best to make lemon-ade