Every once in awhile the family reunion gets slow and we search out the reliable conversations. On a recent trip to rural Ohio, the easy person to talk to my Uncle Lester.
He’s a skinny 73 year old, with a pep in his step despite a couple knee and hip surgeries. He’s down home country person. Always a smile and handshake. Never wears a hat inside but one the door opens, it’s on his head.
So like every farmer, weather is usually quick into the discussion. Today is no different. He asks about my garden. He tells me of 150 acres of soybeans. Then about the corn crops down the road. Then the wheat. Then cover crops. Mix in a horse or cattle story. That’s the normal thing.
This year is different. I have corn. Twenty eight plants, but corn with ears topped with silk. He laughs and tells me it’ll be worth about $7 a dozen. It’s a wet year, most fields are way behind or dead from water sitting in fields. His soy bean crop will be average. His three fields are at different levels (think Goldie locks here), so he’ll be ok. All farmers are self sufficient, but crop insurance changes things.
As a city person with a mom raised on the farm, my views are askew from both worlds. So I ask about how that works. Mr Farmer spends about $550 an acre to plant corn, he spends $100 to insure that acre to produce a hundred bushels at a certain price. If the price drops or production drops he gets some money back. Which means if he spent $650 to produce 100 bushels at $6.50 a bushel, he’s screwed because he didn’t pay for fertilizer, gas, maintenance, or equipment.
“This year people will get hurt” Uncle Lester warns.”The fields can’t keep up. It’s too late in the year. The sun didn’t shine long enough in August and September. The plants prepare for winter in September.”
I’m in awe. Trees do this. But plants? Ok, I know they are all plants. But sweet corn being overly expensive this year? Soy products will raise drastically this winter? Wheat too? All because to much rain?
So I go by Amish country afterwards. The field across should be corn. It’s gone. One foot stalks. Soy fields look better but they are behind too. Years I have drove these roads. Fields are huge and dark green this time of year. We are all connected to this land. The corn feeds the cattle, hogs, chickens, cats, dogs, fish, and us too. The soy is in everything from your mattress to the eighteenth ingredient in the next box you grab from the cabinet. Wheat is there in pasta and breads. Maybe the old farmer is telling tales of woe, like always. But it seems different this year.
At $7 a dozen, three dozen selling that pays from my garden. I’m two ears short! So far. Maybe I can make a bigger profit than him. It’s kind of sad. He’s got everything paid for. So he’ll be alright. It’s the younger ones that can’t afford this.