As daylight hours fall, the landscape changes from vibrant shades of green to infinite hues of yellow, orange, and brown. Many of us don’t look forward to moving our clocks back an hour, wishing instead to enjoy the scenery and cool evenings for as long as possible.
Fall is a special time of year on the farm with a kaleidoscope of sights and cacophony of sounds. Rural communities come alive with an energy fueled by a sense of pride and shared purpose. Combines dot the landscape day and night as trucks shuttle this year’s harvest to grain elevators. With the possible exception of time off for school sporting events, fieldwork continues as long as Mother Nature cooperates. Meals served on tailgates in a field often include several generations of family members. Everyone has a job during harvest, keeping the troops fed among the most important.
Fall is a time when we reap the final remnants of the summer garden, the last few tomatoes to get us through the long winter. We vow to cut back on the amount of squash we’ll plant next year, distribution plummeting when neighbors started to lock their car doors. Mums provide a palette of color and late pumpkins are retooled for Thanksgiving decorations or target practice. Big bucks graze absentmindedly before a mid-November disappearing act that would make David Copperfield proud.
Firewood is cut and stacked giving poison ivy, ticks, and chiggers a final chance to leave a lasting impression. Calves are born allowing farmers one more opportunity to interact with momma cows that don’t always understand the importance of field checks and ear tagging. Think of a 1,600-pound defensive lineman.
It won’t be long before we’re feeding livestock in the dark, breaking ice in waterers, and plugging in motors. We’ll once again be advised to dress in layers, wear a hat (and a mask), and never leave home without emergency supplies. We’ll be thinking of spring while sliding on ice.
But for now, we have much to be grateful for. This year’s crop of corn, soybeans, cotton, and rice is projected at near-record levels. This time last year, many farmers had little or nothing to sell with historic flooding damaging more than a million acres of Missouri cropland. Our large rivers stayed in their banks this year with attention turning to long-term solutions and repairing damage to flood control and navigation structures.
We’ll remember this year as one for the ages. Yet, we still count our blessings and marvel at the beauty of fall. The sights, sounds, and smells will help carry us through another year. Some things haven’t changed — and let’s hope they never do.
Dan Cassidy, of Fulton, is the chief administrative officer for the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.