I was in awe. I'm not sure there are any other words to describe my feeling. It was a feeling of sadness, shock and complete respect and empathy for the flooded farmers who live and operate along the Missouri River this summer.
Walking out onto what looked like a desert landscape, covering acres and acres of what was once fertile crop ground, I was amazed and upset at the same time. Scott Olson, who farms with his brother, Randy along the bottom land north of Tekamah, took me for a ride in his pickup, then ATV, across about 500 acres of fields that were growing a nice crop of corn and soybeans until the last week of May this year. We carefully drove around deeep cut gullies and washouts, and drifts of blow sand as we explored his land, now that the water has begun to recede.
When I visited early this past week, he had only been able to drive on the land for about a week. Before that, it was entirely inundated with water. And beneath those flood waters, who could have known what the land would look like? Now farmers like Scott and his neighbors are getting a better idea of the gigantic tasks ahead in reclaiming this ground for production.
It would be different if the land wasn't so valuable. But it is land that brings around $5000 to $6000 per acre on auction. It is high value land, and I would imagine a fair amount of taxes are paid annually on this property. Now, it is scoured clean and covered in sand. When we were out there, the wind was blowing maybe five miles per hour, no more. But sand was in the air, just like the desert.
The debris for Olson won't be a huge deal to clean up. He has a little driftwood, a swingset and a house deck, and that is about it. His pivot survived upright, but it is buried in sand.
The gullies and dunes are another problem altogether. One gully, about one quarter mile long and 300 feet across at its widest, is going to be a big problem. It is in the path of his pivot, yet no one is sure how fix something like that. Scott purchased a sixteen foot blade for his tractor, and he plans to go to work fixing the land, as soon as harvest is completed.
The farmers in Scott's area have been heroic throughout the summer, helping each other, working together to save as much of their property as possible. Scott told me several stories about his neighbors who fought the river all summer long to protect what they had.
But the battle for these folks is not over. In fact, the real battle of getting their lives back, has just begun. Our prayers, thoughts and hopes are with them in the coming months. And I sure appreciate Scott Olson, for taking the time to drive me around his property.
Watch for more photos and information from my visit to Scott Olson's farm in a future print issue of Nebraska Farmer.
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