Thursday, July 19, 2012

Just got back... 2012 drought pictures.

I just got back to Seattle from a business trip to Iowa.  It gave me a chance to look at the crops across a few states. 

I was born in california, and most of my experience with farming has been on the west coast, and I hadn't really noticed it before now, but I've basically assumed that most farms were irrigated.  In eastern washington and various parts or oregon and california, irrigated desert land is the primary farming land, and while drought does affect the amount of water available, it makes the crops that they produce much less susceptible.  I'm not going to talk about senior water rights or junior rights or the whole topic of water rights in this post, my point is that on this trip I noticed quite a bit of land that was not irrigated, and it surprised me because I'd basically assumed that all farmland was. 

Eastern washington and pretty much anywhere that dryland farming was practiced is doing just fine.  The small grain crops looked good.  Here's some pictures. 
Eastern Washington grain field, half harvested

Montana grain field
combine harvesting grain in South Dakota

Drought or no, anyone who planted small grains this year seems to be doing pretty darned well.  In eastern Washington and Wyoming and the western edge of Wyoming, the forage crops looked good too.  Lots of bailing going on. 
hay bales, eastern Washington
But when I got to south Dakota, I noticed something odd.  Something I have never seen.  The farmers were haying the freeway shoulders. 
Baling the freeway grass
I saw baling activity from South Dakota, all the way through Minnesota and into Iowa.  I finally stopped by the side of the road and talked to one of the farmers -- I was curious if this was a new policy, like the adopt-a-highway sort of thing.  Save the state money by mowing the freeway grass? 

No, it's not that.  Those thousands of farmers are haying the freeway shoulders because where they'd normally get a second or third cutting of hay, they've gotten NOTHING.  The first cutting was stunted, and the drought basically made the grass go dormant, so there's thousands of farmers who are VERY worried about what they will feed their cows.  The freeway shoulders provide a source of forage grass, and there are thousands of bales of hay being made there. 

I also saw farmers haying the fencelines and corners of their fields, and basically working very hard to get every bit of forage they could.


off grid mama said...

Interesting ... I grew up in Montana and it was fairly common place for farmers to hay those areas. May just be utilized more with the drought. It's a dry, crispy brown around me in SE Kansas. My pastures are burned up at least the ones that haven't had good Mig grazing done to improve them.

becky3086 said...

Very interesting post. I have never seen anyone here hay the sides of the road, most farms here are fenced but I will be looking now just to see if I see any that do.

Powdery Top said...

It's not a drought everywhere - there's knowledge that springs eternal:

Guess the farm-dreams gig didn't work out for your buddy.

'Nuff said.