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Rural Ellsworth farmer Leroy Mulder stands in his bean field on Sept. 27, three days after it was pelted with quarter-sized hail. His crop adjuster estimates half the crop was destroyed. (Julie Buntjer / Forum News Service)

Narrow band of hail pelts crops, causing significant loss

ELLSWORTH, Minn. — In the words of Leroy Mulder’s neighbor, you work with a crop for five months and in five minutes it’s over.

Mulder was looking forward to harvesting his early soybean fields this week. He figured it was a real good crop — 60 bushels per acre — but those hopes were crushed when a narrow band of hail went through the Ellsworth, Minn., area and stretched north of Interstate 90 toward Reading.

In the southwest Nobles County town, pictures on social media showed quarter-sized hail stones. Mulder was driving home at the time, so he didn’t see the hail for himself, but he soon discovered what was left in its wake.

“It knocked the beans right out of the pods,” he said, pointing to soybeans scattered up and down every row of the nearly 160-acre field. “The cracked pods is what bothers me — a lot of them hanging in there that’ll probably fall out.”

Mulder had two bean fields take the brunt of the damage. From what he can tell by looking at neighboring fields, the path of hail was only about a mile and a half wide.

A crop adjuster was out Monday to survey the damage, and he estimated about 30 bushels per acre were lost.

“It cut the paycheck in half,” said Mulder, who at age 75 wondered aloud why he’s still farming. “Farming’s always been that way. You have to learn to save (for the lean years). These young people trying to get in, I feel sorry for them — they’ve got a tough row to hoe.”

People living in town haven’t got a clue about what’s happening in farm country, he said.

“They think it’s all glory out here, but it’s not,” Mulder said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of hurt.”

Deb Haper, an insurance officer with Compeer Financial in Worthington, said crop adjusters in her office received calls from about 20 farmers reporting damage — some, like Mulder, losing half or more of their crop on some fields.

“It started on the Minnesota-Iowa border and went past Adrian,” Haper said. “It wasn’t a very wide area, but fair distance.”

In addition to hail damage, Haper said some corn fields were blown down and almost flattened in some areas.

“It’s not a good time when it’s this close to harvest and (the crops are) that ripe,” she said. “The stems get damaged and bruised and the wind’s just going to push them over because of the weight in the pods.”

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