Goshen News, Goshen, IN

May 8, 2013

Farmers are positive this will be the year

— Farmers and Cub fans have something in common. They are eternally positive and expect a better season next year.

This comes to mind today because of what local fruit farmer Maureen Kercher said about expecting a so-so apple crop. It seems last year’s severe drought may have caused apple trees to produce less fruiting blossoms this year. Ah, the impact of the drought of 2012 lingers yet.

As Mrs. Kercher pointed out, spring came seven weeks early last year for local plants and people. That was far too much warmth and when a frost arrived one chilly night, the apple crop was devastated.

The fruit farmers were the first victims of the vagaries of last year’s weather. Then the drought arrived.

That drought dried up anything that wasn’t irrigated. Goshen lawns turned brown, vegetation in roadside ditches became tinder for discarded cigarettes and a new local saying was born, “ankle high by the Fourth of July,” in reference to non-irrigated corn fields.

Water from the heavens was in short supply in late spring and early summer last year and that drought caused officials to ban outdoor fires and fireworks. The Elkhart River turned into a puddle-jumper’s delight and a few wells ran dry.

The number people at the United States Department of Agriculture report that their equipment in South Bend recorded 5.31 inches of rainfall from April 1 to May 5 this year. That was .95 of an inch above normal. Soil moisture is also rated good. So it looks like the last lingering dryness of the drought has been washed away at last.

Farmers have a tough job. They plan all winter what and when to plant and then figure out cultivation and fertilization schedules, invest huge sums in pesticides and herbicides and the equipment to apply them, plant their selected seeds, battle deer and groundhogs for their emerging crops and then, as it has been since Egyptians began sowing crops along the Nile, hope for the right amount of rainfall. That’s why most long-time farmers talk about their coming year in “ifs.” If it doesn’t freeze early; if rain doesn’t flood the fields; if the bugs doesn’t eat too much; if it doesn’t hail again; if the price is good at harvest; etc.

That’s why we want to remind our readers that the few people left in Elkhart County who are full-time farmers, along with their brethren across the nation, are deserving of much respect from the rest of us. As a result of their hard work and years of experience, they fill our grocery stores with an abundance of food at fair prices.

Our hope and prayer for them is that this year just the right amount of rain will fall, the winds will be gentle and, of course, the corn will be way taller than knee-high by the Fourth of July.