Farmers at a meeting where the normal county average yield is nearly 150 bushels per acre were asked by the moderator what they thought the county average corn yield would be in 2012. It only took them about a minute to come up with 40 bushels per acre. And no one was itching to disagree or shove it any higher.
Ouch! That hurts! Whether it really is that poor or not remains to be seen. The fact that it is sinking in now is that this is a bad year and that crop insurance is all that may pull many people through. The mood at that meeting wasn't somber, but there wasn't a lot of laughing and cutting up either.
One day last week I judged crops at the Morgan County Fair. They can bring in one stalk of corn for the corn project, or two stalks of soybeans for the soybean project. After about the 10th 4-H'er that brought in a decent stalk gave me the same answer, it was pretty clear that their county was suffering too. Some looked long and hard, usually in bottom ground or at the edge of a waterway, to find a decent stalk. Asked if the whole field was that good, only about one kid all day out of 30 with corn said yes.
Soybeans weren't much better. The ground was so dry that nodules were ripped off the roots during digging in most cases. Most of the kids knew that they were the places bacteria live and fix nitrogen for the crop, but only a few figured out how to get roots out of the ground without destroying those nodules.
Nearly every set of soybean plants was wilting. I began asking when they dug them, thinking they dug them the night before. The usual answer was 10 to 11 that same morning, and it was only early afternoon. One set turned in early at 7 am that morning was so dried and crinkled it was hard to tell whether they were dying up in the field, or dried up after being pulled. The kids maintained bright smiles despite all this doom and gloom that surrounded them.
Then one young man came in and hit a home run. He walked through the door where I was judging carrying a corn plant with a stalk the size of your index finger, measuring maybe three feet in length, a couple of wimpy leaves attached, an ear almost as small as the kind they put out on those fancy salad bars and a root system that wouldn't cover the palm of your hand.
"Mr. Judge," he began, smiling. "It's been a tough year. This is all I could come up with."
I responded right back. "Hey, you're right, it's a tough year. Let's make it grand champion! It can be the symbol of this season."
Then he laughed and brought in his real stalk. But I got the distinct impression it was easier for him to find his fake entry than it was to find the one he actually entered in competition.
If you can't beat them, join them. If you can't change it, accept it, look for the humor in it and go on. Leave it to a kid to make that statement.
I just wish I'd been smart enough to grab my camera, a grand champion ribbon, and snapped a picture of him holding that puny plant before he left!