By: Levi McPhillips
There is only one time of year that can bring back so many good memories of nature, family, and what it means to be a farmer. Harvest has always been my favorite time of year. Both sides of my family are hard at work in the fields, hoping to bring in enough crops to earn a profit. There are many things about harvest that warm my heart. High school football kept me busy in my teenage years. Saturdays meant sitting in the tractor listening to the Huskers play. Fall also brought the most exciting time of the year, hunting season. My body knows when deer season is approaching. I get buck fever every time November 1st rolls around, and that excitement never dies down until after Thanksgiving. My favorite part of harvest time truly expresses my background as a hog farmer. When the fields start to clear out it means that we can start applying manure to the soils. I am sure that most find it strange that I have always enjoyed hauling hog manure, but that is precious time for me to enjoy in the tractor.
Harvest is an ancient tradition that dates back to when early man first learned to grow his own food. For many the success of harvest determined whether they would make it through the winter. My ancestors fled Ireland in the 1860’s during the Potato Famine. Many years of bad potato harvests forced thousands to search for a new place to call home where they would no longer worry about starvation. If it were not for unsuccessful harvests my family may have never immigrated to America, and we may all still be in Ireland.
My ancestors’ troubles did not end there. Once they homesteaded in Nebraska there were still many dangers that threatened their food supply and their livelihoods. Months of work could be destroyed in a matter of hours by wind, hail, or an early frost. The Dust Bowl forced many farmers around us to leave their farms for better work. Bad economic times and unfavorable growing weather forced many families to choose between going hungry and leaving for new opportunities. My family was fortunate enough to make it through the Depression and dozens of other years of floods, droughts, fires, and relentless economic downturns.
This year we experienced the worse drought since the Dust Bowl. All summer I listened to many people complain about the lack of rain and the unrelenting heat. This year was a good experience for me, and I am sure that my grandkids will ask me about the Drought of 2012. This year was a great example of the fact that drought is not good for anyone. Although it was a difficult year, we need to be thankful for all that we have. It could be much worse. Years ago a drought or famine meant that many would be without food. This year we need to be thankful that this drought is only a strain on the pocket book and not the stomach. Modern irrigation and plant technology are things homesteaders only dreamed of. Modern agriculture can push through the worst of times to ensure that every harvest is a bountiful harvest for everyone around the world.