Remember that saying that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger? It helped me out so many times in life. It definitely helped to make it through hard times, and later it also helped me to remember those days as a good lesson rather than a dark page.
This harvest is definitely not a traditional one. And this saying comes to my mind pretty much every day now.
The late and cold start quickly turned towards the first nightmare. Dry, almost drought conditions made a lot of producers in the area sweat in June. Soon, patchy rains changed the situation. The fields became greener, and cereals and oils were growing beautifully. But almost right away pulses started catching root rot turning fields into spotty, hurting farmers quilts.
Extensive rainfall interrupted an already late harvest, and further rain and snow made a lot of producers freeze in uncertainty. About 60 per cent of the crops were in the bins province-wide, as opposed to usual 80-90 by this time of the year. A lot of it degraded and turned into feed, other has come off damp or tough and will need to go through driers.
For many producers, this harvest feels like a disaster. The weather turns nice for a couple of days urging everybody to get out in the fields, but October temperatures are not steady and high enough to dry the dirt. Equipment gets stuck, the crop is wet and doesn’t want to go in the headers, so machines break when you need them to work the most.
What is it? Is it climate change or just a very odd year? Most people I talked to couldn’t recall a harvest like this one. Most big producers have never left their crops in the field over winter before.
But this time it’s not clear if finishing harvest will be an option. With the amount of water in the fields, a lot of crops will have to be combined when it freezes completely or wait until the next year.
Political tensions and marketing conditions add onto the picture.
So like puzzle pieces, all these challenges come together and turn into a serious stress hammer, which has already hit most of the producers in the area.
In The Black Obelisk Erich Maria Remarque described Germany in post Great War years of hyperinflation. Some of the characters, people in business, are pushed to the brink and end it all for themselves. The book describes the 1920s, when small business was at the beginning of its path. Throughout the years, small business owners grew layers and developed strategies to cope with risks and stresses (It may not work in 100 per cent of cases, but a bad year in business is not the end of the world anymore).
Farming nowadays has become a business too, but it’s young. And it’s still partially a lifestyle, in which people are not used to easing the stress in healthy ways.
So a lot of farm operators, especially the younger generation, may feel helpless and, what's even worse, hopeless these days. They have a lot to lose and they haven’t built up enough capital to remain confident and thus positive or at least calm.
The other problem I see is that while farming hasn’t turned into business completely, it has already left the lifestyle niche, where people would share their fears and concerns with the community and rely on neighbours. So it may feel like our farmers are left one to one with problems, bills and frustration.
In reality, I often see that those traditions and community spirit are still here. Neighbours are still there to help each other. Besides, there is a 24/7/365 confidential Farm Stress Line, which provides more qualified support (1-800-667-4442) and sometimes just a person to talk to when it's needed.
Everybody is in this boat, and nobody wants to see anybody overboard. But if it happens so and there is a person in the water, to save them one would need to notice them or the person would need to call for help. When it does feel overwhelming, it’s import to remember that.
I really liked the phrase, when you are in a dark place, you sometimes tend to think that you’ve been buried. Perhaps you’ve been planted.
Life always has unpredictable challenges for us, and we often don’t know why we struggle at the moment. In my life, most of the challenges I went through turned out to be lessons that had me ready for something else.
The benefits of the challenges of the current harvest might not be obvious at all at this point, but I’m sure they are there. (To begin with, at least every second farmyard will have a grain dryer after this year. I’m not sure how it may help in the future, but definitely won’t hurt). But for now we as a community just need to make sure that everybody is fine and healthy in this boat, which sooner or later one way or the other will make it to the finish line.
So let’s stay strong, and hopefully, this year will be one of those years that will just make everyone even stronger.