By Kim Baldwin, McPherson County farmer and rancher
It’s ironic how I checked my weather app multiple times daily as we harvested wheat in June. We wanted to get the crop out of the fields before the summer storms rolled in, which always offers the potential of damaging hail or winds and could put harvest on hold while things would need to dry up.
Now that harvest is over, I check my weather app multiple times daily to see if there is a small chance of rain or lower temperatures in the July forecast.
No matter the number of times I tap on the weather app on my phone, no matter what 10-day forecast I look at, and no matter who the meteorologist is on the television, the triple digits have not budged, and I’ve accepted that we’re in for an excessively hot, dry spell.
The crops currently growing on our farm are on a combination of dryland and irrigated acres. The sorghum, corn and soybeans growing on our dryland acres will soon show how much they can truly tolerate drought. The crops on our irrigated acres will also show their heat tolerance.
While I am concerned for the crops that will not see a break in hot, dry temperatures as they attempt to grow, I’m incredibly concerned about the animals and the people.
While there will be many people who will seek refuge in air-conditioned environments, farmers and ranchers will continue to be out in the elements ensuring their livestock have plenty of water and the irrigation systems are maintained and continue to run. They will also be out in these elements when things go down and need fixed.
Early in my marriage I remember spending a couple very long, hot days helping my husband and father-in-law repair an irrigation well in triple-digit heat. While we made sure to stay hydrated, the heat was oppressive. It had a toll on my body, and it took me a number of days to “get back to normal.”
Aside from the continued work farmers and ranchers will be doing on their operations during this heat, youth fairs are right around the corner. As a kid, I always looked forward to taking my cattle to the summer fair.
It was fun to live in the barns for a few days with my friends during fair time. We’d sit and play cards on our showboxes while our cattle rested with misters and industrial fans pointed on them. There was always an endless supply of ice-cold drinks in cans and pouches stored in large coolers nearby. The random pop-up water fights in the wash racks in the evenings after the animals had been fed, watered and tied out for the night was also guaranteed.
While I hope the kids enjoy their fair experiences this year, I know they will be working extra hard to keep their livestock hydrated and cooled while they also spend their days in this heat.
During this heat spell, it is my hope that your loved ones, co-workers and employees are staying hydrated. Keep extra water on hand – including in your vehicles. Pace yourself and know when it’s time to take a break and then take it. Monitor those who spend extra time outdoors and offer grace to those who come home at night exhausted from the heat while caring for the crops and livestock.
This season shall pass; but while we’re living in it, keep track of others and yourself.
“Insight” is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.