This week your Platte Valley Farm-Her is far from home attending the National IFYE Conference in Lexington, Ky. IFYE what? The acronym stands for an international cultural exchange that used to be called the International 4-H Youth Exchange, but like FFA, is now simply known as IFYE.
Alumni from the exchange gather every year to celebrate the organization’s mission of “Peace Through Understanding.” Founded in 1948 as a way to promote world peace on the heels of World War II, the exchange focused on living and working with farm families. The first representatives went to European countries and eventually they went to more than 60 countries around the world.
Over the decades, the mission remained living and working with families, but in more recent years it has not always been with farm families, as the exchange has grown to include youth from urban backgrounds, as well as rural origins.
I participated as a representative from Nebraska to then West Germany in 1980 and spent six months living and working with families in seven different German states, three weeks with each family. While the program length varied from three to six months depending on the country and family stays could range from a few days to over a month in different countries, we all learned the value of being immersed in another culture.
The program targets single youth between the ages of 19 and 25, although we have had delegates up to age 30 who have met exchange criteria and gone through the required interview process. If you or a family member fit the basic qualifications, you can learn more about the exchange at ifyeusa.org.
So as any good IFYE would do, I immersed myself in a travel experience just to get to Kentucky from the Cornhusker State. For two days. I road-tripped with our oldest daughter, Juliana, from Nebraska, through a corner of Iowa, then into Missouri, across southern Illinois and Indiana and finally to central Kentucky.
The Farm-Her and her daughter, who is also a vocational agriculture instructor, paid close attention to the crops and sadly noted how widespread this spring’s flood damage was along the way. As we hit Nebraska City, we were fortunate to be among the first wave of travelers to test the reopened stretch of Highway 2 through the Missouri River bottom to Interstate 29 since the May floods. The road is still two-way, head-on traffic, but a marked improvement over the one-way pilot car route that had been used at one point, or no road at all as it had been most of the summer.
Sadly, only one of the truck stops at that interchange is back in operation and repairs continue among all the businesses that sustained floodwaters three and four feet high.
The river bottom crops are another story. Field after muddy field stretched as far as we could see. In places, gullies were washed two and three feet deep through the fields and around center pivot tires. Layers of sand had been deposited in many others.
The soybean fire at the elevator at Rockport, Mo., is still smoldering, sending smoke clouds hundreds of feet in the air. Right next to it is a pile of flood-soaked corn that nobody wants and nobody can safely use. In fact, we had to stop looking at all the damaged grain bins, as we knew their contents were no longer viable and added to the millions of dollars of flood damage.
I honestly don’t know why the markets still haven’t reflected the widespread devastation to the 2019 corn and soybean crops, because our multi-state survey didn’t reflect the type of crops they are still predicting.
My brother-in-law at Hartsburg, Mo., took us down to the Missouri River bottom in their area. While the March floods didn’t hit them as bad, the flooding that started around Memorial Day really took a toll. Farmers had been able to get in and plant most of the area, but almost everything drowned out, except for pockets here and there on high points. A road to a wildlife conservation area and boat dock west of town was finally passable when we were there on Sunday, for the first time since May.
As we continued east on Monday, the crops in southern Illinois were lagging way behind normal. Some cornfields had tasseled, but others were just starting to pollinate. Soybean fields ranged from good to poor, barely reaching ankle-high in many places, with little to no excellent to be seen. And as with previous states, there were plenty of fields that never got planted and were filled with weeds. Some there, as well as in Missouri, are simply being disked under or planted to cover crop.
Southern Indiana fared a bit better, but soybeans still were planted late, many barely reaching knee-high. I’m thinking that the only crop that might help struggling farmers this year is the grain used to fuel Kentucky’s bourbon industry. That’s one crop watch I might be able to handle.
Freelance journalist Barb Bierman Batie grew up near Battle Creek, Neb., and now farms row crops with her Platte Valley Farmer, Don Batie, northeast of Lexington. She has written for local, state, regional and international publications and joined the Midwest Messenger crew in 2010. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.