Roller coaster ride [Editorial]

It’s been dry, really dry, and somewhat hot. Before that it was somewhat dry and really, really hot. In the spring, it was rainy and cool; really rainy and unseasonably cool.

For many of us, the weather is a great topic of conversation, something to be happy about, something to groan about or something for small talk, simply something to comment on with another person when we don’t’ know what else to talk about.

For some of us, the weather is a roller coaster ride that determines each year’s financial outcome.

That’s the lives of farmers and farm families. Each year is a financial risk for those whose livelihoods are coming from the farms. So far, this has been a challenging year, especially for those growing corn as David Anderson’s fine piece published in The Aegis Wednesday documents.

“A lot of the top-end yield potential isn’t going to be there because it got planted so late,” Zach Rose, whose corn crop received too much rain during the spring when it should have been planted, and not enough rain when it’s needed now for pollination, said.

Rose and his family own and operate the 1,400-acre Clear Meadow Farm in White Hall. They are grain farmers and his mother, Nancy, manages the family’s beef cattle residents and visitors for the spectacular sunflower crop they’ve been growing for a number of years.

Other farmers share Rose’s concerns.

“It seems like the planting on everything has been pushed back,” John Rigdon, of Rigdon Farms in Jarrettsville, said. “If it gets dry in August, we’ll hardly get any crop at all.”

Another element of the financially tenuous life of the farmer is the balancing act they need to succeed. They need the crops to be good and market prices to be high. But if the harvest is too good, there might be a glut and prices will be depressed. If corn and other grain prices are high, some farmers are happy, but those with livestock get hit hard on the feed prices.

That’s especially true of dairy farmers like David Crowl, whose family operates Crowl Bros. Inc. at Garden Fence Farm near Rock State Park.

David Crowl, who works with two of his sons, Parker and Tanner, did plant 250 acres of corn this year, but theirs is primarily a dairy farm home to 200 cows.

Another part of the business risk of farming is sometimes the weather creates double the cost of bringing a crop to harvest.

“A lot of corn that went in early ended up having to be replanted because of all the moisture, all the water,” David Crowl said.

That means buying twice as much seed and twice as much fuel and spending twice as much time to get a single harvest. Add to that the potentially deleterious effects of tariffs being levied by President Donald Trump, and 2018 is quite a challenging year for the family farming business.

That’s nothing new nor should anyone be surprised that farmers keep pushing forward, ignoring challenges that would derail lesser people and lesser business operations.

No doubt, even some of the hardiest can’t take the never-ending uncertainties about farming life. There have always been, however, those who keep moving their farms and farming forward.

That’s how Harford County can be proud of farming operations like the Smith/Rose families or Rigdon Farms, which has been operating since 1728, or the Crowl Bros. Inc. at Garden Fence Farm, and can boast of farmers like Parker and Tanner Crowl, who are the sixth generation of their families to farm in Harford County.

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