Arkansas Farmer: Worst Drought I Have Ever Experienced in My Lifetime + Pics of Decimated Veggies

July 30, 2012
Ron Klinefelter

Hi Holly,

Since I last wrote to you a couple of months ago, the drought and heat has steadily worsened. This is without a doubt the worst drought I have ever experienced in my lifetime. All of Arkansas is rated as being either in severe drought, or extreme drought, and the whole state is under a burn ban. The nearest town of 11,000 population even had a “mowing ban”, presumably so if you hit a rock, the sparks wouldn’t start a fire. Coupled with the severe lack of rain, is the oppressive and relentless heat. Today, it was 104. Tomorrow is supposed to be 107, and the next day a “cooldown"  to 102! Working out in the direct sun during the middle of the day is dangerous, as the sun seems to be hotter on the skin than I ever remember, and can result in some pretty severe burns. At 10:00pm tonight, it is still 91 degrees!

This year, I have seen something that I've never seen before in all my years of raising lot of tomatoes. I have over 150 five foot tall tomato cages made from concrete 6X6 reinforcing mesh, which hold the plants together nicely, and keeps them tall and upright for easy picking. But this year, it's been so hot, that the stems have lost some of their stiffness, or rigidity, and the whole plant will literally slump down a foot or two, which leaves a lot of tomatoes that formerly hung around knee high, on the ground, more exposed to the sun, and more exposed to being eaten by the scores of box turtles we have here all over the farm.

This month, the 3 nearest cattlemen’s livestock auctions set ALL TIME EVER records for livestock sales, as farmers sell off their herds. There was only one early cutting of hay this year, and the round bales are going for $100/bale. (This should normally cost $20-25/bale.) We had a pipe break in our 340 foot deep well, which necessitated us getting the pump pulling truck out here this last month. When we originally drilled the well, in the “plenty of rain years”, the water rose to within 24 feet of the surface. Last month, it was 180 feet down to the water level, and we are down in a valley bottom, and not irrigating out of it. The guy pulling the pump told me that the  call he made earlier in the day to a guy who wasn’t getting any water in his pressure tank, found, when they pulled the pump, that the water level was now 40 feet BELOW the pump, which was completely dry and burnt out! Some of the rural water systems have also run out of water, and burnt their pumps out.

I talked to one of my sons today. He manages the largest elderberry farm in the U.S., up by Jefferson City, Mo. They are in their harvest now. He said that last week, they picked 10 long field rows, where, in a “normal” year, they would get about 700 pounds of berries. This year they got 35 pounds! This thing is NOT going away, but only deepening as we begin to see the effects of God withdrawing His hand of blessing on a stubborn and unrepentant nation, who has chosen to throw God out of practically every area of our public  lives. Brace for impact!

The only thing that has kept my farm producing what little there is, is 3 to 4 hours of watering a day, and the deep layers of wood chip mulch I put down this spring (see – HOLLY COMMENT: We posted this in April as a Video of the Week. If you missed, here's the link), when I hauled 14 cab high truckloads of mulch from a tub grinder, and the use of a LOT of minerals in my beds. I am thankful to still have some water in our creek, but the spring is getting awfully low now. It was “August low” in June, and I have been watering almost steadily since April.  What few one or two tenths of an inch rains that we have gotten are evaporated by noon. Most folks around have totally abandoned their gardens, as they have burnt up. The county has basically ceased all road grading, because all it does is stir the rocks up, and cause a lot of flat tires. They were also wearing through the heavy steel cutting edges on the grader blades in less than two weeks, because the ground is so dry and hard!

About all I can tell people with any discernment at all, is that they had better be buying up all the food they can NOW, as prices are already starting to go up. Before this calendar year is over, people won’t believe how much food will cost. May God bless HIS people, and give them the wisdom and  strength to keep on going.