This is a continuation of our series of newsletters on the subject of “the future of our food” as we discuss what kind of food system we want going into the future. This week I’d like to discuss a topic that’s always on our minds, but even more so over the past week….WEATHER.
Weather has been with us forever! In my case I only have 60 years of weather memory. Starting on the South Dakota plains, with winter blizzards when we went to the neighbors’ house a mile away with Smoky and Barney pulling the bob sled for a Saturday night taco and card game evening. A night when only a team of horses could have made the trip. And then there was the ice storm of ’59 when a heavy buildup of ice snapped off power poles for miles. We were without electricity for two weeks. My brother Dennis, my Mom and I milked our cows by hand while Dad was off helping the electric linemen put in new poles. I know something about weather, I’ve farmed around weather for most of a lifetime. Sometimes it is too wet and sometimes too dry. We have learned to farm around it. We watch weather forecasts day and night and plan accordingly! We make the absolute most of dry days to keep planting schedules and do our weed control.
|Early spring onion field on raised beds|
|Last year we built a new dike to help prevent rising waters.|
We are very good farmers and have consistently raised good to excellent crops through a variety of weather variations that we considered “normal.” But over the past ten years, that has changed for the worst! For example, lets look at the history of the Bad Axe River watershed we live and farm in. Human beings have lived and survived here for 10,000 years, but farmed for only the last 1,500 years. European settlers have farmed here for less than 200 years. The Bad Axe River would periodically flood over its banks and damage the rich valley farmland. So starting in the 50’s a series of dams were built on the North and South forks of the Bad Axe River to hold excess water and prevent flooding. The dam that is 5 miles above our farm is the Runge Hollow Dam. It successfully ended flood events until 2007 when we had what was called a “100 year flood,” with an unprecedented 18 inches of rainfall in 24 hours that overflowed the dam and flooded our valley crops. We survived life and limb and came through economically with the help of many friends and customers. Then it happened again ten months later. We had another “100 year flood.” We survived again and went on to have several good years, got out of debt, and then had another “100 year flood” last fall, September 2016. We really needed a good year to recover from the losses of that last event, but here we go again just 10 months later!
|A fallen tree on our landlord's storage shed!|
|Cleaning up fallen trees & branches |
on field roads Thursday morning
|Farmer Richard making use of his bulldozer to|
clean silt and debris off a field.
|The goats really like the fallen trees!|
|Replacing fencing panels washed out by the swift current.|
What’s next? We keep talking. Brainstorming. We need solutions to these issues, we need changes to policy, we need to figure out the course our future will take. We’re back to the “future of our food.” I, once again, encourage you to be part of these conversations so we, as a community, can proactively decide our future. There are many things that could be done! But, they take money, direction, leadership, “political will,” regulation, incentives and education. Firstly, we need understanding, cooperation and the right attitude.