It has been awhile since I have been down to Oklahoma, about 10 years as a matter of fact. But one of the things I remember is seeing cows everywhere from the interstate and along the road. I see more cows driving 10 miles in my own county in Wisconsin than I have seen driving the long way across Oklahoma. So many people have chose to sell the cows or cut back drastically in their numbers just so they can keep them fed. “Better to sell them than to let them starve” is a refrain I have heard several times. Let that sink in. A beef producers options are to let their animals starve, or sell off the herd that they have been working to grow for years, some for all their lives. The other option if they can possibly swing it is to go into major debt to buy enough hay to cover their feeding needs. This is very much like Dairy farmers who went for over a year with a one-two punch of low milk prices and skyrocketing feed prices. Many producers sold off their cattle and will never return to dairy farming. It didn’t matter if you were big or small, in 2009 it cost dairy farmers money every day to stay in business. In that situation, other than eating lots more cheese and pouring a bigger glass of milk, there wasn’t much the average person could do to help dairy farmers out of the hole. In this situation the average person can help, sending hay south directly impacts the future of these family farms. Now of course we can’t help everyone, but for those who we have helped this means the world. Many of the beef producers I have spoken with have said that they look forward to someday helping us in return. I am going to tell them to eat more cheese!
Our 3 loads of hay down here have been split up and have helped 21 beef producers. Not a single one of these people makes their income only from farming. That doesn’t mean that they are hobby farming. It doesn’t mean that they have income that allows them to buy hay. It means that in order for them to feed us, they work at least 2 jobs… volunteer on the school board, help kids show animals at fair, are active in their church and a million other things.
Before I headed down here I expected to see brown everywhere. As the truck got closer to Altus I was pleasantly surprised to see some growth. Over the last 2 weeks or so, the rain has finally come. About 5 inches have fallen and many have gone ahead and planted their wheat, which is now sprouting. The ground is still incredibly dry but this little bit of rain has started the renewal of the land. Pray for more because the ground has zero moisture reserves and it won’t take much for this wheat to die as well. Right now the winds are blowing hard and drying the soil even more and there is a freeze warning. I sure hope those tender sprouts can make it. For a little bit I was afraid that if I posted pictures of the green sprouts people wouldn’t realize that the need is still here and that the drought is a very real thing. But I think the photos show more the incredible optimism of Farmers.
Family- My second cousin’s family opened their home to me while I was visiting. These are people that again I haven’t seen for 10 years. They were amazing! Not only did they give me a place to crash, taxi service around the area and fantastic meals… They also went out of their way to teach me about the crops and animals in this area of our country. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed spending time with them. Because my close family relationships are often difficult I really appreciate my extended family and the feeling of belonging here in Oklahoma was just what I needed after a difficult summer. I really can’t wait to come back down. Of course I offered for them to come visit us in Wisconsin and even suggested a trip in February so they could experience a true Wisconsin winter, this of course after everyone was talking about the “cold snap” they were having, but I don’t know if I have any takers.
Posts on the dairy farmers we helped, my cotton learning day, my Sister and my visit with her all to come…