Looking for positive signs in a down year
This fall, I've frequently driven by a rural church with a sign up that says "See the good in all things."
At the beginning of the month, I ventured on a northeast North Dakota road trip to two growers who were held up by rain, snow and ice. Despite the harvest woes, I was reminded of some good.
Randy Schaley grows soybeans, pinto beans and spring wheat in Nelson County. This fall brought him 11 inches of rain, followed by 20 inches of snow, bringing his harvest to a halt.
We walked an unharvested pinto bean field together.
Schaley said, "As far as these conventional pinto beans, it looks like it's going to be the first year we're going to leave some crop in the field. Out of all the other years, we've had some close calls, but we've always got the production harvested."
While leaving pinto beans in the field isn't good, Schaley found some good in the wheat harvest despite wet conditions. "We started out with a pretty good wheat harvest, bushel production was good, but we did not see one dry bushel of spring wheat this year, which out of my 45 years, that's one of the first."
I paused thinking of the significance of the fall when Schaley pointed out he's been farming for 45 years and he's experiencing firsts in his farming business that are not positive firsts.
Seeing crop left in the field was difficult for me to "see good in all things" but the ability for Schaley to want to keep going onto his soybeans while leaving behind his pinto beans showed me a trait of farmers I appreciate, perseverance. Leaving crops in the field are paychecks left behind, but there isn't time to stop and worry when there is work left to be done. It's onto the next field and crop that is accessible to harvest.
The good I saw in my visit to the Schaley farm was to keep going, even when circumstances are difficult. Get done what you can, and don't dwell on what you cannot.
Just east of Pisek, N.D., I met John Miller. He shared "it's been one extreme to the other" this fall.
Miller's family has been farming the land where his mother grew up for about 40 years.
John has been farming for about half that, and he's finally wrapping up one of the roughest harvests he's seen.
"The 24 inches of snow that we received the second week in October is something I hope to never see again." he said.
Despite the snow, Miller's crops reached maturity, although he expects about a 20% yield reduction in his soybeans.
He and his brother, Joe, were harvesting when I visited. While there, another weather problem stopped my potential combine ride in their last field of soybeans.
"Last field of soybeans and it's kind of a bear because I've just plugged the header up with ice, which I've never done that before. We'll get through it and tomorrow will come," said Miller.
My mind flashed to the church sign. "See the good in all things", even while pulling ice chunks of out his combine header, Miller was looking ahead.
It's the people in agriculture who make it good and they help me to see the good in the livelihood of farming. We will get through this fall. And tomorrow will come.
I needed the reminder and you might need it, too.