Farmers facing tough decisions

Eye on KELOLAND

LENNOX, S.D. (KELO) — March flooding and relentless spring rains have farmers in parts of KELOLAND playing an anxious waiting game. 

Many farmers want to get to work planting their crops but their fields are too muddy and so are the roads leading to them. 

 

Harold Timmerman’s farm equipment is still collecting dust in his shed on the north end of Lennox. 

“It’s the wettest I’ve ever seen and I’ve lived in this area all of my life. I’ve never seen roads like we have them now. I’ve never seen fields this wet for this long,” Timmerman said. 

Timmerman, who you may also know as the Lincoln County Emergency Manager, uses his vacation time every year to farm 500-600 acres in these parts. As he checks his rain gauge, he wonders when he’ll be taking time off to start the planting process. 

“It’s just taking a long time to get rid of all this moisture and we keep getting more and more,” Timmerman said. 

The longer farmers wait, the more intense the decisions they have to make. 

“I would need a week or two of 70 degrees before I can even begin to think about planting. Once you get past the 15th of May, your crop insurance starts losing one-percent a day. So you’re sacrificing there and if you don’t plant at all, you get some help from your crop insurance but then your average yield is going to suffer. It’s a little bit of a conundrum as to what you want to do,” Timmerman said.

Northwest of Lennox, Dave and Julaine Stratmeyer have been tending to this land since 1988. 

“I love to watch crops grow. I love to watch cattle. Their temperament. Learning their dispositions and working with them. The harvest is always over-the-top great,” Dave said. 

This year however, everything is up in the air because of what keeps falling to the ground. This is a look at recent flooding on their property. 

“Right after that March flood when the water went over our driveway. Doing that, it washed out the dirt over top of the culverts. We had like a eight foot, by the width of the driveway, void of gravel. Just a hole,” Dave said. 

Even more heartbreaking, watching the cows deal with deeper mud than usual. 

“You kind of have a pit in your stomach when you look out and see them plowing through mud and the babies. The mom’s udders are full of mud so the calves… you can’t go out and wash every cow off every time the calf wants to eat,” Julaine said. 

Hopefully soon, they’ll be moved to this pasture. Dave says even this piece of land dealt with flooding forcing him to remove piles of sand that was killing the grass. 

The Stratmeyers say they would normally have a lot of corn and soybeans planted by now but because of all the water and mud in the field, they’re several weeks behind. Still, they have hope things will turn around.

They hope to plant corn and soybeans on more than 900 acres. Last year, they were planting up until May 28 and the crop turned out OK.

“Typically we’re half done with corn, planting corn. We like to start in April and maybe by the 10th of May start on beans. We haven’t moved a wheel,” Dave said. 

Dave says the farming community is patient but it’s also on edge. 

“The time is here. It’s time to go. It’s time to be doing stuff,” Dave said. 

But at this time, many farmers are stuck. 

“Patience is a virtue but it’s a hard thing to learn and a harder thing to practice,” Timmerman said. 

A part of the problem, Timmerman says Lincoln County has around $1.8 million worth of damaged roads. 

“If they try taking heavy equipment down these roads now, it’s going to sink in some of the roads. They can’t get to the fields. Once you get there now, you can’t go anywhere anyhow,” Timmerman said. 

Plan A for many farmers is out the tractor window and many families are way down the alphabet when it comes to strategy. 

“It’s not looking like a good farming year right now and you’re getting to the point where how much do you want to invest in crop inputs for maybe not getting much out of it in the fall especially with the prices the way they are,” Timmerman said. 

Even with all the headaches, there’s a passion for the job that doesn’t go away. 

“Some days, yeah. Generally, we love it out here,” Dave said.

“We’ll get something planted I’m sure. It might not be everything that we planned on doing and want to do but we’ll make do,” Dave said. 

The Stratmeyers have faith and hope Mother Nature is preparing to cooperate. 

Timmerman says on top of all the rain, we had a wet fall and the winter frost has been especially bad this year. 

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