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Winter thoughts

Farmers and ranchers are empathetic people. When others in production agriculture have difficulties, we feel sad for them.

Sometimes we can help, but most of the time we just watch, wait and pray along with them. Hearing reports and seeing photos of the flooding last spring and summer was heart breaking. Knowing that semi after semi was loaded with donated hay on its way to help feed animals who were in the flooded areas, at no cost to the animals’ owners, was uplifting for everyone in ag.

We’ve had snow on the ground off and on since October but most of the temperatures have been mild. We haven’t had blizzards, haven’t had miles of power poles snapped off leaving us without power. We didn’t lose the capability to get feed and water to our cattle. We can only hope everyone will have good weather conditions and will be able to get ready for calving and lambing seasons — and have bang up crops from both.

There probably isn’t a more helpless feeling in the world than knowing your livestock needs tending and you can’t get to them. It is when you know that even if you tried, the wind and snow are so bad that you couldn’t see to get anywhere. You feel guilty for being tied to the house and warm and fed while your animals aren’t. It is just plain hard.

“A lost crop represents the seed, fertilizer and other expenses, in addition to planting and of the other fieldwork time put in to produce a crop.”

It was a tough year for many crop farmers too. There are still hundreds of acres of corn standing in fields, corn that couldn’t be harvested due to wet conditions, rain, floods and then snow. The fields were saturated before winter came and it doesn’t look any better now in February. The farmers may be discouraged in the dark days of winter but bring on the sunshine and longer days and things begin to look up.

Beet growers in North Dakota got caught in the early, cold fall, with hundreds of acres of sugar beets frozen in the ground. A lost crop represents the seed, fertilizer and other expenses, in addition to planting and of the other fieldwork time put in to produce a crop. The money expended for labor and fuel, the machinery use and the time involved, all of it used with no return from the crop. Beets in the ground will complicate spring planting. Yet farmers will plant somehow, and around they will go again.

It’s a good thing those of us in agriculture have the “next year” mentality, as we say next year will surely be better. One thing these hardships teach us is to treasure the good years and be brave enough to try and ride out the bumpy years.

As we grew weary of the snow I decided I’d see each flake, not as snow, but as one more blade of green grass. We are most aware how quickly that life-giving moisture can disappear and remain elusive. That is another thing agriculture producers have in common — optimism. ❖


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