There are some firsts you never want to experience. The first time you step on a Lego. The first time you get food poisoning. The first time you drive through a blizzard.
We had one of those “firsts” this spring.
There are about 200 acres of our farmland that will sit idle this year. For the first time ever, we didn’t finish planting all of our farms. We ran out of time.
Most of this was due to the weather. This has been the wettest year on record for our area. Everything is in a perpetual state of soaked. The fields have to be dry enough for us to plant, meaning the tractor and planter have to be able to drive across the field without getting stuck. After a day or two (or more) of rain, it usually takes a couple no-rain days for the fields to sufficiently dry out. This year, we didn’t have too many of those no-rain days, and not always enough consecutively to completely dry the fields. So the equipment sat quite a bit and planting was put on hold.
Yes, we did get stuck. The above photo was one of those times. Because at a certain point, we had to just push through the fields and get as much planted as we could. We don’t like to plant in those conditions, but we weren’t left with a lot of other choices.
In some places, what we did get planted was later flooded out. This was especially true behind our house, which is usually a heavier ground. It is great for growing things, especially in years when we don’t have enough rain, because the soil holds moisture better. In a year like this, the soil holds the moisture and doesn’t drain very quickly. As a result, some of the fields became temporary lakes and the seeds weren’t able to germinate.
Crop insurance establishes certain deadlines for when crops have to be in the ground. Corn, for example, had to be planted by June 10th. Soybeans had to be planted by June 20th. The deadlines help protect against fraudulent claims (ie. planting corn at the end of July isn’t going to end well in the fall). When we ran out of time for planting corn, we tried to switch those fields over to soybeans. But with the weather not cooperating, we ran out of time for that option too.
Time is up. Those 200 acres will now get a year off, even though in some cases we might still owe rent on the property. We may have a crop insurance claim, though that hasn’t been decided yet.
Yes, it will hurt the bottom line. In a time when profit margins are so, so thin, not even getting to start is the last thing we want to happen. But I don’t share this reality because I’m looking for sympathy or support. It is what it is. There was nothing we could do about it.
I share this story to give readers a flavor of the challenges and uncertainties we face on the farm. Sometimes we make it look easy. Of course we’re going to get everything planted. Of course we’re going to get everything harvested. Of course the seeds will germinate and the plants will grow. But that isn’t always the case. Often, things outside of our control can put a stop to all of it. We just have to roll with it and figure out the rest as we go along.
That is exactly how Plant18 ended.