Metro-East News

Wally Spiers: Farming can be a tough business

Wally Spiers
Wally Spiers

My son, Matthew, headed to the farm near my hometown of Wellsville, Mo., the day after high school graduation in 2001.

He has had a good farming career, but it has been interesting. There was the drought of 2012, and now there has been the great deluge of 2015.

He said he had 30 inches of rain in 60 days during May and June — where farm fields became lakes.

This, of course, has led to an interesting farm year. When I asked him what local farmers were saying about their yields, he said, “They’re just saying they are disappointing.”

Usually it is first liar loses when farmers discuss yields but around Wellsville there wasn’t even much to lie about.

The rain either kept people from planting or drowned whatever they had already planted. Then after all that rain, it quit for a couple of months. They had flooding and drought in the same year.

Harvest did not take long.

Well, it was delayed when it finally started raining again after the drought. My son just finished a field of milo that he planted late after it quit raining. Milo is drought-tolerant.

How bad were things? We were driving by a field I knew he was renting and I remarked that it was too bad he didn’t manage to get it planted.

“Actually, I did,” he said.

“Oh,” I said, foot in my mouth. “What’s in there?”

“Milo,” he replied.

How was I to know? Nothing was growing.

A cousin had a field that fronted a black-top road we travel and I kidded him that I was going to pick some of the lonely stalks of volunteer corn that had sprouted.

“Go ahead, help yourself,” he said. “I’m glad people think it’s volunteer because I planted that field.”

Some of the fields that didn’t get planted got a new treatment, at least around here, when farmers planted turnips in their fallow fields as a cover crop. The theory is that the turnips and the foliage will rot and allow for aeration of the soil besides adding nutrients to the soil.

Matthew is a good farmer who has learned a lot as he has gone along, but this year he struggled to find something that worked. Luckily he can do about anything and found lots of work baling hay, planting for other producers and harvesting other peoples’ crops.

He planted turnip seed in a field with predictable results.

“Here’s my turnip crop,” he told another farmer holding up a single turnip from a rather large field. He said actually he thought he had found three.

It’s a good thing he has cattle, crop insurance and a good sense of humor.