This summer's drought and extreme heat brought a lot of worry and hard work for farmers. It also has moved prices higher in the grocery story.
Local farmers agree that this was the worst drought in half a century. And while late rains saved some of their crops, the heat and lack of rain destroyed others.
The Kauffman Family Farm has been planting and harvesting for over 42 years. Barry started full time work with his dad, Steve, in 1984, and now his son A.J. is riding by his side.
"I don't think there is any better way for a family to be together than a farm," says Barry Kaufman.
On a fall day they are harvesting soy beans, and in this irrigated field they are yielding a normal crop.
The non-irrigated beans also did ok because of the late summer rains from March until July 13 the South Bend Regional Airport was seven and a half inches below normal for rain, and then we made up over five inches of that by August 31. However the rains did not start in Eastern Elkhart County until two weeks later.
“Maybe ten bushels below the average, but even at that we are just tickled it's that close,” says Barry. “We thought they'd be more than that off.”
But when it comes to corn, it did not produce as well.
“Well in this area that is pretty much a typical ear in this area,” says Barry. “Mold on it which we have that all over. Probably 70 percent of this field is going to look like this, where there just is really nothing here to even harvest.”
Barry's Father Steve says this year’s drought was worse than 1988.
“The good thing is, it is wide spread, and the prices have improved enough that it won't affect us as much like if it was a localized drought,” says Steve.
But it will affect all of us when we make a trip to the grocery store.
“The consumers will be paying for this drought for the next year or so,” says Jeff Burbrink form the Purdue Extension. “They are going to have to pay the folks who process the food a little bit extra for this.”
The Kaufmann's say it could be worse if it was not for last year's good crop.
“That's what's the saving grace of this year is,” says Barry. “There are corn and soy beans being carried over from year to this year. There is enough food to go around, the problem is, it’s costing them a lot more. It is costing everyone a lot more.”
One cost, farmers are glad they invested in, is irrigation
“Our experience with commercial irrigated corn is probably three to ten times better, irrigated,” says Steve. ”It was a lot of work and we irrigated more than in the past ever, more times. But, when you are all through with it is worthwhile.”
With a healthy crop of soy beans, the diversified field is one thing that helps farmers get by.
“Beans will kind of sit and wait until they get some moisture,” explains Barry. “Beans were derived from a weed so they're much more hearty in dry weather than corn is. It's just the way it works out, the beans will take the heat better, take drought better.”
Farmers are lucky they have had some recent dry days to get their crops in.
“One of the concerns is the prices may start dropping in a few months,” says Burbrink. “That would not be very good if you have very little to sell.”
All the hard work and worry for farmers this year is something they hope will not happen again soon.
"For one thing, our crop supply would go down so far we would not be able to supply what we need, which, because there was carry over we are ok,” says Barry. “Supposedly everything is ok as far as the usage, but another year like this we will not be able to keep up with the demand for food."
And with the growing world population and economy, farmers need to continue to keep up with their production of food, despite the weather. Indiana and Michigan are responsible for producing a large percentage of that food.