Cedar Mountain wheat field Culpeper County (copy)

Rain clouds hover over a Culpeper wheat field off Zachary Taylor Highway in Culpeper County earlier this year. Cedar Mountain stands in the distance.

Summer weather can be interesting. You never know what it will bring—be it a drought, a thunderstorm, straight line winds, a micro burst or a tornado.

For those on the receiving end of these events, it’s not so interesting, but instead a relief to get past the challenges. Buildings damaged or ruined can be most tragic and upsetting, as we assume such infrastructure to be long lasting and dependable.

Next up would be crop or livestock loss due to weather. Most frequent here in Virginia would be the loss of our crop—corn, soybeans, small grain, hay or pasture, even trees and horticulture crops.

Our farmers make bets leading up to the growing season on what they expect to happen at the end. Sometimes they are wrong, the yield coming in nicely higher than predicted, or lost yield due to drought.

We are in a drought now after having average or better rain through June. Now this is joined by some of the other weather events like recently big wind along with rain—significant for the trees and crops impacted, the buildings damaged—and for the drought softened, for now.

But still, the drought remains dominant if recent rains do not begin another pattern.

The eastern United States suffers and benefits from its exposure to tropical storms and hurricanes. Lynn Jaynes, editor of Progressive Forage magazine, writes in her July editorial about weather systems stalling here in the United States more frequently, doubling over the last 30 years. One noted stall (100 hours over Texas) was the slow-moving hurricane Harvey in 2017. It tied with Katrina for the cost of damages caused from dumping so much rain (60 inches in places) over such a large area on a path from Texas to Ohio and Indiana.

The folks in Madison will give us a preference for drought over flood, but that would be a story for another day. Farmers know that historically we suffer drought most summers, some worse than others, and they are ready every year.

With more than half of the growing season behind us, the next 60 days will decide the final outcome.

As I hear about growing older, it is not for sissies—which means it’s tough. And so is farming some of the time. It takes a certain tolerance to be a farmer, and they are resilient and prepared when change happens.

Carl C. Stafford is the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s senior agent in Culpeper County. Write him at ccstaffo@vt.edu.

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