Harvest 2016 is now officially a shit-show. A couple of weeks ago we got one and a half inches of rain. That in itself is not a good thing when the ideal condition for combining fields of grain is hot, dry weather. An extended run of several days of sunny, frost-free, dew-free weather allows farmers to run their equipment without breakdowns. It also ensures the grain is dry before it’s stored away in grain bins or hauled to an elevator. If it is not dry, a stinky, mouldy mess and financial loss will result.
Then, cue the white stuff. Last weekend we got three and a half inches of snow. We still have about three hundred and fifty acres to harvest. The ten-day forecast doesn’t look great. The temperature last year was in the mid twenties; now, that’s great harvest weather. If crops remain standing or in swaths on the ground over winter, it may be catastrophic for some farmers. Not only does the quality, grade, and price drop—if anyone will buy it at all, but mouse droppings further contaminate it. However, the bills for fuel, crop inputs, loan payments, living expenses will still be due.
If like us, farmers have crop insurance, typically you’re required to combine your devastated field so an adjuster can then measure your yield and pay a claim based on the shortfall and your coverage level. If we don’t get a fall miracle and the crops remain un-harvested until spring, it will be April or May before a person can try combining. Insurance companies aren’t known for their blinding speed.
That scenario also means the dropped straw needs to be baled and the bales hauled away. Many farmers also do at least some minimal cultivation to prepare for the next crop. If all this autumn work happens in spring, the 2017 planting will be delayed setting up potential problems for next fall. A Canadian growing season is only so long; Mother Nature isn’t responsible if we don’t do our part in good time.
Is this situation going to lead to more gambling, domestic abuse, bankruptcy, alcoholism? The sorts of lumpy social problems under the quilt called ’better times.’ I think there is far more of this happening behind closed doors than any of us know. It’s easier to paper over the problems when the money is flowing in the oil industry, in the agricultural sector, when people are employed, and the economy is humming.
I just know, from life experience, that it’s a lot easier to be hopeful and positive, to keep the faith when there aren’t any serious challenges to our homeostasis and happy little lives. These are the times that challenge our resourcefulness, our mettle, our mental toughness. These are the times that separate the men from the boys, the women from the girls. This is also the time to hug a farmer, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.