Weather Woes

It’s 2 a.m., and I wake to see a screen illuminating an otherwise dark room. Bright greens, reds, yellows and oranges color the screen, and I know what that means: South Dakota weather is acting out again, and Farmer Dan is anxious about his crops.

It’s a common scenario that plays out in the dead of night often during these hot stretches of summer. While I can sleep soundly through tree branches crashing down and deep thunder rattling our house, the lightest whisper of rain wakes my farmer up and has him reaching for his iPhone to check the radar. For the farmer, summer brings new growth of crops and lush, green pastures, but it also brings the threat of severe weather that can desolate a farmer’s entire year.

Growing up as a town kid, I never thought much about the weather. I was, of course, worried about getting the cars under shelter during bad storms and staying away from lightning, but I was fairly oblivious to what weather could mean to others in my community and state.

That ignorance did not last long, as life as a farmer’s wife opened my eyes quickly to the power of South Dakota weather. Our first year farming after Dan’s dad passed away brought the one of the worst droughts since the 1930s, and I saw firsthand how discouraged farmers can get when all of their hard work is for naught. Like every farmer in South Dakota, we’ve faced challenging weather conditions in our four short years managing the farm – not enough rain, too much rain, record heat and cold spells, excessive wind and deadly hail.

The new generation of farmers is starting their careers with the ability to have constant communication about weather that is heading their way. Rather than tuning in to the evening news or waiting for breaking updates, farmers like Dan can now watch with trepidation (or relief) as a storm system either heads for their land or moves away. It’s both a blessing and a curse – the ability to know so much is incredible and can protect the farmer from getting caught in a bad storm, but the stress that comes with watching the seemingly inevitable destruction of your livelihood can be unbearable.

For the farmer, summer brings new growth of crops and lush, green pastures, but it also brings the threat of severe weather that can desolate a farmer’s entire year.

It’s a frustrating feeling, to be sure, to lack so much control over something that affects your quality of life so greatly. The farmer spends hundreds of hours cultivating his fields, and all of that can be wiped out in a matter of minutes. There’s no amount of skill or passion that can keep a storm from ruining months of hard labor.

This can be a difficult position to be the partner to the farmer, watching as the colors flash on the radar and hoping for the dark greens and yellows that indicate a nice soaking rain is on its way. It’s the hot, humid days where you can just feel in the air that a storm is brewing that you know it’s going to be another sleepless night for the farmers who care so deeply about their crops. At that point, all we can do is pray for the weather to pass over the farm and neighboring farms, and ask for understanding if our crops face destruction. As a farmer, you have to accept that there will be years when the weather will not be in your favor, when the countless hours of work are dashed in a moment. It’s been a hard lesson, but learning to take the bad with the good is just a part of life on the farm.

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