Published Jul 11, 2010

Wild Weather

By Teresa Opheim

Once you get to know farmers and follow their lives, “the weather” becomes far more important to you. Last week, as the windshield wipers struggled to keep up with the sheets of rain slapping my car windows, I slowed down and thought, not of the cancelled Fourth of July celebrations that day, but of crop losses.

What a lot of rain PFI farmers have seen this spring and so far this summer! Thursday, Sarah and I attended Tom and Mary Cory’s Field Day. The Corys had 11.2 inches of rain in June alone. Friday I visited Blue Gate Farm, where Jill Beebout and Sean Skeehan showed me yellowed and ruined vegetables. And yesterday, at Grinnell Heritage Farms, Andy and Melissa Dunham told of the heavy rains as well.

These farmers and more are seeing what experts are saying: The rains are coming harder and faster than they used to. And we’re getting more of it than we used to as well. The average annual precipitation has increased by about 10 percent since 1950, according to Iowa State University Extension Climatologist Elwynn Taylor.

Handling these wild rains (and droughts that will be coming as well) requires resiliency. In Jill and Sean’s case: adding hoophouses was a good idea–the crops in their hoophouses are fairing much better. In Mary and Tom’s case, planting cropland to pasture is keeping the rain where it falls. Andy’s and Melissa’s wide variety of crops planted at different times of the year helps mitigate the losses.