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The Last Windrow: This isn't the first time spring arrives late on the farm

Photo illustration, Metro Creative Graphics, Inc.

It was a late spring planting season. Snow lay on the ground at the middle of April and planting machinery sat idle around the farmstead.

Due to my growing up years on the farm, I tend to watch farm programming on our TV set. To some, viewing these ag-related programs may seem to be a bit boring when compared to the cop shows, comedy shows and reality shows, but I enjoy hearing about the things that are going on in the ag industry.

It's a tough scene currently with the low commodity prices that have been making farming and ranching challenging at best. The recent snowstorms and blizzards experienced in the Midwest are not improving the situation.

My wife and I just returned from a couple of weeks of traveling through the breadbasket of the country. I never cease to be impressed by the millions of acres of tillable land that is present in our country. Section after section of ground is now sitting idle, ready to accept a seed.

But, through all those miles we traveled within the past two weeks, we saw nary a tractor in the field. Traveling through Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland, we saw not an acre of ground being planted or even tilled for that matter.

Many fields still held pools of water either from excessive rain or excessive snow melt. Rivers were bank full all along the way and every farm pond was filled to the brim. At this time in April, I expected to see at least some fieldwork being done; but no, there was not a planter to be seen except sitting in farmyards at the ready.

We stopped and had a meal at a number of small town cafes on our travels. Farmers who should have been in the field were seen sitting in the booths discussing the price of hogs and wondering if they were going to plant more soybeans instead of corn because of the shorter growing season that seems to be on the horizon.

Those who were raising livestock were talking about how to keep their young calves alive during the wet and cold weather. Those guys wearing seed corn caps didn't look as if they were enjoying the rain falling outside the cafe's windows.

Farming has changed a lot since those real small farm days that I experienced in my youth. Farms that at that time averaged a quarter to a half section of land have been melded into giant acreages that amount to thousands of acres. Such is the economic system that exists today in farm country.

When you hear the phrase "small family farm," in my eyes it doesn't exist anymore except for perhaps a truck farm or a hobby farm. Real farming today requires a massive amount of acres to exist. You don't see too many two -row corn planters these days.

Our small farm experienced a late spring such as this year's and I remember my dad sitting at the kitchen table looking out at the late snow that had just covered our fields. He had long ago repaired and replaced the aging machinery that would be needed once planting started. All was sitting at the ready, now draped with a coating of white snow.

Farmers are usually an optimistic lot, but a spring such as this one can bring on depressed attitudes. Those who have not had the opportunity for that experience would have a hard time relating.

The crop did go in that long ago spring. Fields were plowed and planted. A crop was harvested that fall. The snow that fell that late spring actually helped produce a better oat crop than usual.

It is a late spring on the farm in 2019. It has happened before. There will be a crop this fall. The country and its farmers and ranchers are counting on it.

See you next time. Okay?