As if the farming profession isn’t hard enough, farmers are faced with what they call the worst season they can recall this past spring, summer and fall. It started with a wet spring, then a cold, wet summer and ended with, again, more rain this fall.
Gary Anderson, a Wahkon former dairy farmer who has now turned to crop farming to keep his farm alive, recalled his experience this spring, “We couldn’t get the crops in on time but ended up getting them in. We were pretty lucky. But then it snowed, and that wrecked 150 acres of corn which we had to replant. Well, it (the corn crop) didn’t turn out to be anything but garbage. We never had that before.”
Tim Wilhelm, a crop and dairy farmer and county commissioner from Long Siding, farms 1,300 acres with his brother and says he doesn’t remember this much land never getting planted.
“At one point in August, we were 11 inches over normal rainfall,” recalled Wilhelm.
Wilhelm, who is still able to stay in dairy farming, is saddened to look around the area and see empty silos and barns. “They (the former farmers) all raised a family, and those people supported the local towns,” he said, “until it went from a way of life to a big business.”
Phil Peterson, another dairy farmer from Milaca who now farms crop and cattle, agrees with Anderson and Wilhelm, stating, “I’ve never seen it like this spring, summer and fall.” Peterson, who is also a Mille Lacs County Commissioner, says it’s been tough, not just for local farmers, but regionally as farmers in the Red River Valley lost half their beets because they couldn’t get them out of the ground.
“Farmers have insurance, but it just gets you by,” said Peterson.
“Not even enough to get you by,” added Wilhelm.
Anderson said the cold, wet summer with excess rain made it difficult when crop spraying as well. “The chemicals have to be on the plant in order for them to be active,” he said. “It was hard to get them to stick.”
Anderson said the quality of crops coming out this fall is less than average because of the cold, wet growing season. “They didn’t mature like they should have and are hard to sell because of the quality,” said Anderson. “We just got done with soybeans that should have been out three weeks ago, and we should be into [harvesting] corn but are a couple weeks away from that.”
The problem Anderson and others are running into now is the grain itself is too wet, and the cold weather we’re now experiencing doesn’t allow it to dry. “You have to artificially dry it. You haul the grain in and run it through into the silo and dry it with LP gas,” said Anderson. “The cost is tremendous this year because it has to be at 15 percent moisture, and right now it’s at 37 percent; so we have to take off 22 points.”
He noted that a 1,000 gallon LP tank lasts two days at the most, and it will take a week to ten days to dry the grain now.
Another difficulty was getting around the very wet fields this fall. “Some farmers had to use a couple tractors to get around the field with the amount of rain and mud,” said Anderson.
So what now?
“Hope it gets better; you just pray a lot,” says Anderson. “It’s really tough, and the price of grain has been so poor that farmers have not made any money for four years. And it’s draining our equity.”
Peterson added that the banks have sent out mental health counseling information to the farmers. “Prayer meetings, counseling … and also suicides have been up,” said Peterson. “Farmers don’t want sympathy, and we always say, ‘next year will be better.’ I’m glad I’m not a young guy; it’s tough for them.”
There is stress every day, Anderson said, but added that any time you are in a business for yourself, there is stress.
“But I always try to look on the bright side,” he added.