Southern farming is just plain risky. I’d say about as risky as any farming between the Earth’s poles.
About this time most summers, we talk about the haves and have-nots, meaning some folks get the famous and usually much craved afternoon showers our humidity can thunderhead up. But this year, everybody’s got a good taste of the rain. Some’s gotten more than their fill for now, dealing with the hangover of too much, staring the bartender in the face and saying “No mas!”
Funny thing is some of our Southern crops just might get the Hair-of-the-Dog syndrome. (And for those not familiar with that, well, the nice way to explain: The liquid that got you in trouble last night and setting your head pounding in the morning is the easy way to relief the next morning – if you can stomach it.
It’s happening now. On my way to the Southern Peanut Growers Conference, I saw plenty of washed out fields in south Georgia and north Florida. Saw plenty of good ones too. Saw fields washed out with standing water in the middles and good early planted cotton doing just fine across the road.
But if and when the sun starts beating down the next day and the next and the next, well, situations change. The coin flips. But the odds are the same.
The flip side of the same coin
This crop’s been given the water, and once a plant starts getting the water, you gotta keep giving it to it when it needs it. We have pegging peanuts now. Cotton will drop blooms or squares quick when stressed — drought stressed or water stressed. We’re water stressed. Funny thing is we can go drought stressed pretty fast in the South. Tap doesn’t need to turn off just yet.
Southern land can flood in just a day or long weekend if the tropics decide we need a good bath. Or, it can go stone-cold sober on us and make a tee toddler look like a lush.
Farming in general is a risk in almost any place or environment. But in the South, hey, like Forrest said, “You never know really what you are going to get.”
We know our summers will be crippling hot with suppressive humidity. We know spring weather will be like trying to bet on which way the headless chicken will run next. Our weather is as volatile as any on the planet, either rain, wind, tornadoes, hail or just dusty dry. And farmers adjust.
I also know our weather, even in the heat of summer (or in late January for that matter) can make you realize why our ancestors put us here: Sitting on the back porch or deck in the late evening or looking over the pond and the breeze whispers across your face and steady enough to keep the bugs out of your eyes. That evening rain shower just passed through. The horizon is red-orange with purple flecks. And you realize it’s all going to be OK.
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