“Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.” It’s a childhood song that most children sing when they want to go outside and play but unfortunately, this spring the rain didn’t seem to stop. This was a song that men and women in the agriculture industry found themselves saying day after day. The rain simply wouldn’t stop and the impact that the wet weather has on farming can be a critical one.
Imagine this. You’re a homeowner and the rain won’t stop. Your lawn becomes too wet to mow and before you know it, you haven’t mowed for two or three weeks. You’re frustrated but it’s out of your control. Now imagine your livelihood depending on the weather. The manure you need to fertilize your fields with can’t be spread because the conditions aren’t right. The crops you need to plant by a certain time period to feed your cows depend on the perfect ratio of rain and sunshine. And the future is in question because Mother Nature is in control.
Jason Burroughs, a Cayuga County dairy farmer, reflects on what the wet weather earlier this spring means for the agriculture industry. He says “This is becoming the new normal. We’re getting wetter in May than we used to get in late March/early April and when the soil is wet, you can’t do anything.” Homeowners want to spend springtime outside mowing lawn, planting flowers and enjoying the sunshine after a long winter. Farmers are exactly the same. After a long winter of preparing for spring planting season, farmers are geared up to plant the crops they need for the following year but this year has a challenging one, one of the toughest that some farmers have ever seen due to the wet spring we experienced.
Burroughs continues to explain that, “the weather challenges are a good example of why farmers need manure storage.” Manure storage allows farmers to hold manure until the conditions allow for them to apply it to their fields in the form of fertilizer which will help their crops when they get planted. Farmers store their manure through the winter because conditions aren’t ideal for application. When the weather cooperates in the springtime, manure application can occur. A perfect spring includes a few weeks of sunny, 80 degree weather allowing farmers to apply manure, plant their crops, harvest their hay and prepare for the upcoming year on the farm. As we all know, the spring we had was less than ideal especially for farmers.
Spring planting was delayed across the state this year and when farmers should have been focusing on harvesting their hay for their animals, they were just getting into the fields with the planting equipment and more focused on watching the forecast than ever before. The more time that farmers have to wait to plant their crops, the more likely it will be that the crop won’t germinate or mature in time for an on-time harvest later this fall.
Weather is a deciding factor for a lot of decisions on farms today and all year long. Farmers care about the land they live on and the communities that surround them because they live there too. Their cows, their business and their livelihood depend on crops getting planted. Burroughs mentioned earlier this spring, “when we’re finally able to get out in the fields, we’ll be working pretty much around the clock. Farming isn’t a 40-hour a week job. You’ve got a limited time when the weather cooperates to get all your work done.” And this is exactly what has happened.
So the next time you’re doing a rain dance, applying fertilizer to your grass, waiting to mow your lawn or simply wishing the rain would stop, think about the farmers down the road who are waiting for the most opportune time to produce the food they need for the upcoming year on their farm.