The rain has started falling again, and I am once again staring out the window wondering when and if it will stop. Planting reports throughout the Midwest show fields throughout the region remain woefully empty.
Some of those acres belong to my parents who farm in south central Kansas. The last time that the area I grew up in had this much rain and flooding I was a freshman in high school. As I read about the flood stories throughout the Midwest this week, I have been reminded of that abnormal month of May 2007.
That year, we had planted our crops in April, but then it started raining . . . and raining. Our farm is located a mile west of the Big Arkansas River, and the river curves at that point, meaning it also runs a mile south of our farmstead.
Although the river rarely comes out of its banks, my dad and the local farmers and landowners have worked hard to build and maintain the drainage district’s dike system. So this past week when I called home and heard they were out “running the dikes,” I was reminded of 2007 when I skipped school to ride on the back of my dad’s four-wheeler as we rode along the top of dikes, looking for water leaking or seeping through the dikes.
During that day off school and the following one, we tied hundreds of sandbags, throwing them into gopher holes that turned into water faucets as the water rose along the dike. It wasn’t just my family spending hours a day trying to protect our livelihoods from the rushing waters of the river; we were out there with all of our neighbors, young and old.
I remember in particular one afternoon as the water was starting to rise, they found a hole in the dike straight west of our house. Over the course of a couple hours, the hole grew, and the dike was quickly softening. That was the moment that the four-wheeling switched from being a game to being real. I could see the fear in everyone’s eyes as we realized our inability to keep Mother Nature at bay.
But just as that revelation hit me, so did the voice of a neighbor as he smiled and said, “We found some more sandbags; let’s go.” And go we did. We sandbagged that area for several hours and even my most experienced neighbors were surprised that we were able to keep the dike in one piece.
You see, the incredible thing about farming is that every day we deal with factors completely out of our hands — the biggest one being Mother Nature. When we do, we realize how we simply tend her soils and remain a far cry from being able to control what happens in those fields.
On the flip side, those same moments that remind us of our helplessness are also those where we find our greatest strength as we bond together as a rural community. Our neighbors and our agriculture family allow us to lean on them when times are the toughest. Those people make this job possible. They help us sandbag for hours. They bring us a load of hay for our heifers on pasture. They loan us a listening ear when we can no longer find the light ourselves.
I don’t like this weather any more than the rest of you. I hope as you wait to get in the fields that you are reminded of those people who have been there for you when times are the hardest, and I hope this week doesn’t leave you needing a sandbag or two.
The author is an associate editor. She covers feeding and nutrition, youth activities, and heads up the World Dairy Expo Supplement. Maggie was raised on a 150-cow dairy near Valley Center, Kansas, and graduated from Kansas State University with degrees in agricultural communications and animal sciences.