Was it dry enough for you?
by David WIlliams
It is highly unlikely that any grower got enough rain to suit him this summer, which had one of the deepest and longest droughts on record. And some crops are showing the complete devastation that the arid soil and unforgiving heat has wrought—dried corn stalks and browned soybean fields are all easy to find across the Southeast.
Tobacco took its share of damage from the poor conditions as well. But overall, the crop came through the summer’s aridity in better shape than any other summer crop in the Southeast. Of course, it is an arid plant, standing up well to dry conditions. But a lot of the reason growers are barning a crop and sending it to market this fall is because the grower is a patient, intelligent businessman who knows his crop and what it will and will not tolerate.
No one panicked and scrambled to find irrigation systems that were not in the plans back in February. No one threw up their hands and plowed it under, relying on their crop insurance to provide them, at least, with stable losses instead of total wipeouts.
The growers chalked it up to another dance with Mother Nature, a dance they have been doing since they began living off the land. There is always something to battle against—not enough rain, too much rain, too much wind, no rain at the right time, not enough labor, mechanical breakdowns and countless governmental hoops to jump through.
A grower I visited said something when I asked him about the quality of his crop that I have heard many times before. “It is what it is,” he said.
In the truly understated way of the farmer, that says it all. You do all you can, bust your hump, and when the crop goes to market, you get the best payday you could get based on the best crop you could grow.
Sometimes farming is like medicine, where the prime directive is to first do no harm. A grower does a lot to help his crop and never does anything that would harm his yield. And like medicine, most farm procedures are preventative in nature, guarding against an unforeseen foe. When something happens that is out of his control, he limits the damage and presses on.
Wet or dry, these growers are pretty smart fellows. They have been around too long to panic because there is no rain coming down. Next year, there may be too much—and they will deal with that as well, if and when it comes.
After all, it is what it is.
Tobacco Farm Quarterly