I've heard that from a couple of different farmers in the past three weeks, and I gotta say by the kinds of stories I'm hearing, I believe it.
Since we've been here we've not seen more that an inch of rain fall on any given day. Our grass is brown and burnt to a crisp, especially when you step on it. The small garden we planted has yet to show any signs of life, even after watering it regularly. The locals are saying they haven't seen a good soaking since they can't remember when, let alone two or three solid days of drizzle.
This year started off great and much of the seeding was done early. Just as the seeds were germinating and coming through, we got a killer frost which set them back. Then as they started to come through again, there was no water to get them going. The fields look unlike anything I've ever seen before, some are even bare with just a few patches of green in the low spots. Some of the fields have stunted crops because of the lack of rain, and they won't produce enough to harvest.
In short, it's getting bad. 30 years bad.
Because the grass isn't growing and the crops are failing, the cattle farms are in trouble. One farmer here was down to no feed, but was able to make arrangements at the last minute to move his cattle to a neighbours empty field, provided he put up fences. He was desperate so he did. Another friend had to sell a bunch of cattle because there was no feed, so they sold at a loss. Because everyone is in the same position, the value of cattle is dropping in price, and the farmers are losing what they invested in the cattle this winter. The same farmer has enough feed for the rest of his cattle to last three weeks. Plenty of the area farmers are in the same kind of hurt. You want to know we are praying hard around here.
One local farmer had to dig a 20ft deep trench for utility purposes, and all the way down, it was dust dry dirt. Amazingly there was no moisture.
Another elderly farmer was telling me that even his garden potatoes are not coming up. He said that in the dirty thirties at least the potatoes would grow. That's what fed them through those dark days. But not this year.
Even if it rains now, it's too little and too late for this year. The grain farmers are hurting, the cattle farmers are hurting. The hog farmers have been hurting and going out of business for a couple of years now, and the turkey farmers will have to purchase feed this winter. There will be a bit of help through insurance for the grain farmers, but that just covers the cost of getting the crop in the ground. It doesn't cover living expenses etc. But even the farm gardens aren't producing. They often can be depended on to help through the long winters, but this winter might be longer than usual.
And so we have much to pray for here, and we are praying.
Given the situation, I am often surprised by the optimism of many of the farmers around here. They continue to get up and go to the fields, doing what they can to coax a little crop along, day by day. It's all new to me, so I keep asking questions of them, learning as I go. In a way I feel a twinge of responsibility being the local "Man of God" guy around here. Why didn't God send the rain when it was needed? Why will this winter be so hard on some of these farmers? And so on. So I keep asking God those same requests. I keep asking him to send the rain on the just and on the unjust, just like it says he will do. And I keep being grateful for the simple things I have. Food, shelter, transportation, and a chance to serve him out here in The Field.