Weather can be the nether world of farmers

Published 3:39 pm Friday, August 21, 2020

Larry McDermott

Life on the farm


Right now, everything is green because of weeks of rain, and non-farmers probably think that’s what farmers need. But like everything else in life, that depends on where you are and what you’re growing.

Years ago, long before we entered this rancorous age of surface level anger and hostility, I regularly had phone conversations with readers who were upset about one thing or another that had appeared in our newspaper.

Most, but certainly not all, were healthy give-and-take conversations. The majority of the upset callers understood and accepted my explanation that how they viewed the newspaper’s presentation of news or editorials would naturally be colored by where they stood on issues.

For example, I would say, if you are at a baseball game sitting in the left field section, your view of a controversial play is affected not only by where you are sitting in the stands but your opinion of the team, the opponent and even the umpires. Likewise, the same is true for the person sitting in the right-field section or even behind home plate. Your position colors, or even obstructs, your view.

So, when you see all those green fields, don’t assume life is good.

For apple, peach and vineyard farmers, continuous rain can cause serious problems if the fruit is hanging on the trees and vines ready to be harvested. Relentless rain can create the perfect environment for fungal diseases to prey on foliage. Fungicides don’t help much if it’s raining every day.

Farmers depending on a late summer harvest of hay crops to feed their livestock and bring in a little extra cash are bogged down, unable to bring home what they were counting on all summer.

Stuart Beam, who runs one of the largest hay operations in our region, is characteristically blunt about the effect the rain has had.

“It has made it absolutely miserable,” he said.

For those who have weak-stemmed hay, such as some crab grasses, the rain and wind knock the hay flat on the ground, creating other issues that make harvesting a challenge.

Hay fields that a month ago were prime for harvesting now as feed for horses often have to be used instead to feed cattle. From a supply-and-demand perspective, you can see what that might mean for equestrians who need good horse-quality hay for this winter.

“We have extreme weather shifts now that set in for weeks. Years like this make it challenging regardless of what you farm,” Beam said.

Consider the small farmer depending on a crop of vegetables, tomatoes and melons. Even they can be wiped out by all this rain.

So, as with all things in life, where you’re sitting as you watch your local farmers colors your view of how they are doing. All of that greenery doesn’t always spell success.

Larry McDermott, a retired journalist, owns a 40-acre organic farm in Rutherfordton, where he grows blueberries, keeps bees and raises horses, dairy goats, and chickens. Email: or see farm happenings at