November 29, 2022
Drought changes everything, including your priorities for the farm. Normally, the goals of being profitable, being able to invest in improvements and expansion around the operation, and buying new equipment and better tools would top the priority list for farmers this time of year. A new year brings new challenges, and also new hope.
But this year is a little different across most of Nebraska and much of the Great Plains. Most farmers I know just want snow. Yeah, they want that little four-letter word to fall from the sky, and not in small dustings, but in big, wet amounts. I have to admit, I’m now on the bandwagon too.
The reason is simple. After almost 18 months or more of severe drought in many parts of our state, we need the moisture, however it may come. Yes, I’m fully aware that we must be careful about what we wish for. Our good friends in North Dakota had severe drought a couple of years ago, and since then, they’ve had more than their fair share of drought-breaking snowstorms. But it is quite unusual for farmers, including livestock producers who have to work in the snow all winter long to care for the herd or the flock, to wish for more snow.
Fun in youth
Growing up, I loved snow. After the drought of 1968, when we were milking a bunch of cows, the drought broke that winter when Crofton received more than 120 inches of snow. That’s a lot of snow for our area, but at least the drought was finished.
We have home movies of me standing next to snowdrifts in our farmyard that were 25 feet tall. That was a fun winter. Sledding on our big hill north of farm. Making snow caverns in the drifts, and having snowball fights with Dad.
My folks, on the other hand, were not enjoying it so much. Dad had to meet the milk truck at the end of our quarter-mile driveway each day and pull the truck onto our place to pick up milk. Pushing snow with our little Super M Farmall outfitted with a Dual front-end loader and chains seems a little crazy now, but Dad kept the place clear after each successive blizzard, and we had only one day when the milk truck didn’t make it out to our place.
A repeat of that year came for my wife and me in 2009 on Christmas Eve, when a blizzard grounded everyone from Christmas Eve church services and stranded many just around our own community who were unable to travel, even a mile or two, because of heavy snow and zero visibility.
There were farmers who went out to feed their cows in the cornstalks that evening, but nearly lost their way, driving through ditches and across unknown landscapes as the blizzard came down on the area so rapidly, without time to prepare.
With those memories quite fresh, most of all, this winter we wish for moisture. We want everyone to be safe, to be able to feed their cows and care for their livestock. We want our farm structures and homes to stay intact. But the fact that farmers are willing to ask and maybe even pray for snow this winter is a testament to how dry we really are.
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