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Living through history can be challenging

Tommaso Borgogni/Getty Images rainbox over cornfield
BETTER TIMES AHEAD: It’s been a tough spring for crop farmers in Indiana, but better times will return.
This season is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many in agriculture.

One thing about being older is that you have lots of history to draw on when sizing up how significant or serious current situations might be. My 66 years tell me the spring of 2019 in Indiana will not soon be forgotten. They also tell me life will go on, and this will become another reference point along the way.

For just a moment — whether you’re in the field (and hopefully you are), or filling out prevented planting forms, (which hopefully you’re not) — let’s forget about days to frost, hybrid maturity and crop insurance. What does enduring a season like this mean on a personal level?

No doubt it means mental anguish. I’ve felt it because I feel for all of you, and because I like watching corn grow and writing about how to make it grow better.

One of our staff members, Holly Spangler, editor of Prairie Farmer in Illinois, is earning a reputation as someone who understands mental health issues in agriculture because she has written about suicide prevention, dealing with grief and more over the past six months. Times were tough in agriculture, even before the spring of 2019.

What Spangler has learned from experts is that you need to deal with your current issues in your own way, but you also need to talk about them with others. People I’ve known who have dealt with somber situations say the same thing.

Look back, look ahead

Hopefully this season will pass and become just another milestone in your ag experience, albeit a challenging one. Here’s what I remember from other challenging experiences:

Spring 1981. I was offered a job with Indiana Prairie Farmer in mid-May. My dad was farming, and I was assisting. We hadn’t planted a single seed. We didn’t until the first day of June. It was the closest spring to this one I remember. To top it off, I found out I needed major surgery. As soon as planting wrapped up, I headed to the hospital. After a fitful recovery, I started my new career on Aug. 3. My first assignments were stories on “will corn beat the frost?” and “what to do with wet corn.” Fortunately, yields were about average that year.

Summer 1983. I was about to help Jim Newman, the Purdue University agronomist at the time, turn “El Niño” into a household word. The weather phenomenon blocked weather fronts, and corn wilted after a promising start. Unfortunately, I thought the price rally was because of the scare, but the scare became reality. I persuaded my dad to forward-contract, but yields were truly impacted by drought, and prices went much higher. Worse yet, our own yields were cut by about a third. I didn’t think it could happen because I’d never seen a year when it didn’t rain enough to make a good crop. Like I said, you learn from history.

Summer 2012. My most vivid memory is watching the John Deere thermometer off the back porch reach 106 degrees F in the shade on the first Saturday of July. I walked 300 feet in a cornfield that year without finding an ear.

Those were tough years. But I survived — we survived. You will survive. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. There are people who care and understand. Here’s hoping the rainbow appears soon.        

Comments? Email [email protected].

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