When does agriculture not have an “unusual year”? It seems something unexpected happens constantly in agriculture. Farmers and ranchers deal with this all the time. Too much rain, too little rain; three inches in 45 minutes, compared to a slow, steady six-hour storm.
Equipment breakdowns lead farmers to become their own mechanics. One year you may have low conception rates on your cattle, or a bull goes bad during breeding season. The next year you have an excellent calf crop and high crop yields, but the market price is down.
This year at the Kerr Center we had a wet spring. The summer cover crop did not get planted at the horticulture farm until late June. Because of the late planting we didn’t plant sorghum-sudangrass, which we need to for bermudagrass suppression. Instead, we planted a short season cover crop of buckwheat.
When it stopped raining, the weather turned dry. An early outbreak of armyworms stripped many pastures, leaving us short on forage and feeding some hay early. Fortunately the rain started this fall, and pastures recovered, so we have winter grazing.
All of these events add up to the unpredictability of agriculture. Farmers and ranchers learn to adjust to the changes, but the stress is high.
While our food production system is not perfect, we try here at the Kerr Center to teach methods to make it more sustainable. Just be thankful at Thanksgiving for the farmers and ranchers who spend the time and effort to grow the food we eat.
Many times I feel we take for granted the abundance of food we have. Farmers and ranchers work hard to produce our food despite the fact that it has been an unusual year – again!