July 25, 2021

One job on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth was to walk just-cultivated corn or soybean fields to find the cultivator parts — disk blades, sweeps, even whole shanks — left broken and unseen by my quiet, iron-bending great Uncle Honey earlier in the day.

Water is central to our lives. We pray for rain in droughts and talk about “showers of blessings.” But on the other hand, too much rain can be devastating. Farmers in Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana are seeing just how destructive all that moisture can be.

The warmest decade on record was in the years 2011 to 2020. The warmest six years have all been since 2015 with 2016, 2019 and 2020 being the top three for hot and dry. And the hottest June for the North American continent was the June that just ended.

On the farm, the “to-do” list never seems to end and only grows when the weather doesn’t cooperate. For my family, we found a small window when it was dry enough to wean calves a few weeks ago, and it has rained off and on since, delaying other much-needed work.

The sun glared into my eyes as I felt the heat of the stage soak up through the soles of my shoes. Microphone in hand, blue corduroy jacket zipped up, I walked out onto the grandstand stage at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, swept my eyes across the crowd seated across the dirt track and waved.

This blog is one of the last, for now at least, in what has turned out to be a series of sorts about helping five of my six kids prepare their projects and livestock for the 2021 Johnson County 4-H Fair.

As I think about our country’s 245th birthday, I thank God for all those who have stepped up to defend our nation, for those who have fought for change and for those who bring communities together to support each other in times of crisis.

Farmers fully understand in order to yield a successful crop we need our vast natural resources. The sun, air, water and soil are just some that we rely on. For thousands of years, farmers have fed the world while protecting these resources and operating sustainable family businesses.