I have made it no secret that this winter has been one of the hardest I have ever experienced in my lifetime. We have lost more calves and lambs in this winter than the previous three combined. The weather has been as bad as I can remember in a long time and that alone would have made this season difficult. Personally, this difficult weather was combined with a couple of family health issues and at times I have felt like a lone ranger.
I remember one particularly difficult Sunday when I came in exhausted and beaten up. I was done mentally and physically, I could go on no longer. I guess Jennifer sensed this and was ready, as always, to prop me up and get me going again. Let me just add that this winter, Jennifer had a much-needed surgical procedure on her heel and was out of commission during this period. My guess is that it was much harder on her to be on the sideline.
In any case, I told her I couldn’t keep going, I was done, winter and bad luck had gotten to me. We had a serious discussion and talked about what I could do. One of the solutions was to ask Isaac to come back after classes and help as often as he could. We did, and he agreed to — I have to say it was one of the best things I have ever done.
In the past, I was probably too much of a micro-manager when it came to the kids helping. It had to be done my way or no way. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that is not a real good management style. This winter was different — I had to let Isaac do some things his way, and I was in for a real surprise. While it may not have gotten done the way I would have done it, it got done and it worked.
I am new to having adult children so maybe this is how it always happens, but I was amazed at the way he got things done and how well he did them. This past week, Tatum was home from college on spring break, as well, and she was eager to pitch in and help. Despite my poor parenting (they must take more after their mother) my kids are productive, functioning adults.
I don’t know if it was the change in the weather but suddenly, I felt a wave of relief, and the realization that I was going to make it set in. My kids had rushed in and saved the day. Well, that and Jennifer doing more than she should have on crutches and a boot. Without my family’s help, I am not sure I would have survived this winter.
I must admit that I wrote this story with some apprehension. The winter I have been through pales in comparison to the recent weather and destruction my friends, neighbors and the ag community in Nebraska and others affected by the “bomb cyclone” have been through. My tribulations were minor compared to the pain and tragedy they have experienced and my heart breaks for them.
So, what does my story of my family and the tragedy north of me have to do with each other? In agriculture, we are all family and that is what makes us unique as an industry. Even though I have never met most of the farmers and ranchers who are living through all our worst nightmares, my soul aches for them and I can feel their pain. In agriculture, we truly are a community and as such we care about each other.
This morning, I had a reporter call me to see if I knew of any funds that were set up to help producers. I told him that at this time I did not know of any, but I also promised him that there would be funds set up. He asked me why I knew this. I said because in agriculture, we take care of each other. I know without a doubt that if I had experienced the same thing, my neighbors in Nebraska would feel the same way and be here to help at a moment’s notice.
I know at the time I am writing this, it is still too early to know the full scope and magnitude of what we are dealing with and that makes helping difficult. That means all we can do to help is to pray and keep those affected in our thoughts. Soon it will be time for action, and I know the ag community will jump in with both feet.
The winter of 2019 surely will go down as one of the toughest and it saved the biggest sucker punch of all for the end. I ask that you keep all of those affected in your prayers and please do what you can to help when the time comes. I know, in the end, those caught up in this horrible storm will come out tougher and stronger, but in the meantime they could all use a little help from their extended family. We are all in this together.
Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.