After last spring, summer and fall, there aren’t many Great Plains and Midwest farmers who will ever forget the growing season of 2019. Depending on where you were operating, weather provided ample reason for concern throughout the growing and harvest seasons at one time or another.
Many of us will recall a year ago March, in particular. The number of extreme weather factors that collided in the middle part of the month to provide flooding and other weather challenges unlike any we had seen in decades was a singular event that was unforgettable.
We may try to forget it, but if we are realistic with ourselves, we shouldn’t. We should remember last March in detail and learn from it.
Disasters are horrible. Little good can ever be derived from the loss of life, livestock, grain, homes, farms and ranches, communities and livelihoods that are associated with disasters. The only good thing to come out of most disasters is our human ability to remember them, learn from them and prepare better, so we can handle similar situations if they ever pop up again.
The Pine Ridge and Niobrara Valley wildfires of 2012 in Nebraska were disasters. Combined with previous years of wildfires, they decimated much of the ponderosa pine forest in those regions for decades to come. They took out miles of fence line and destroyed ranches, homes, structures and rangeland.
But since 2012, forestry and conservation agencies, natural resources districts, and farmers and ranchers have banded together to develop forest and grass fuel management projects. These projects will never prevent wildfires from coming again, but they will lessen the effect of the fires and offer more safety to those fighting the fires when the time comes.
Partnerships also have developed between fire protection agencies, communities and other organizations to mobilize more firefighting equipment in a timely manner if those kinds of disasters strike again. Preparedness can never completely give us peace of mind, but at least it can help us have a game plan moving forward.
The floods of 2019 did that for the regions that were struck hardest. The flooding forced communities and agriculture entities, along with individual farmers and ranchers, to look at their weak spots when it comes to excess water.
It forced us out of our comfort zone to look at where we may be able to mitigate some of the impending consequences of extreme flooding. It helped us see areas that are prone to flood problems, even if those floods don’t strike very often.
As we look back and recall the floods of 2019, we remember and honor those who lost their lives in those floods. We also continue to acknowledge the daily struggle felt by producers who still work to rebuild their lives, their lost cowherds, and lost homes, farmsteads and community structures.
The best we can do in the aftermath is to look forward, to see how we can improve things, so when and if such floods ever strike again, the effect can be minimized as much as possible.