Area farmers hope for rain after recent dry spell

Steward-area farmer Dean Svela is one of many local farmers hoping for rain in the coming weeks after dry past months.

‘I don't know if there is a normal anymore’

ROCHELLE — Dean Svela recalls farming being different when he was a kid. 

Things were “general” with the weather. It would storm in Iowa or southern Minnesota and that rain would work its way into a nice shower in the area. Things have changed since then for the Steward-area corn, soybean and cattle farmer. 

“Anymore, it's either feast or famine,” Svela said. “You get rain, I don't get rain. You get pounded and flooded and I get just a little bit. I don't know if there is a normal anymore. This to me is more normal than the past two years. The past two years there's been times where right now we're still trying to get crops in the ground because of all the excess rain. Now we've gone to the flip side where we're short.”

Area farmers have experienced little rain early this summer, spring and even going back to the winter and fall months. Svela prefers this year’s dryer conditions to recent years’ wetness. It causes plants to grow down and get better feet under them so they can withstand dryer conditions later on. 

Svela didn’t expect a dry year, but he said experts did, and they’ve hit the nail on the head so far. The rain that has come to the area has been scattered. Svela has been lucky to be on the receiving end of some of the rain. 

“This past weekend we got 4/10s of an inch,” Svela said. “A couple miles from here didn't get anything. It might not seem like much, but that really helped us. You go over here a mile where they didn't get the rain and their corn was curling. Ours looks good. It's not under severe stress.”

Ogle County Farm Bureau Manager Ron Kern has also seen area crops in bad shape due to dryness. 

“The crop is desperately looking for moisture,” Kern said. “The dry fall, winter and spring, we’ve been dry for quite some time. That’s not good. It seems like there’s quite a bit of crops that seem to be stagnant. A good shower would help that.”

Kern said he didn’t expect the dryness coming out of last year. He said if you go south of I-80, it’s been wet all spring. Last month, he was on his way to Peoria and saw ponds in fields “everywhere.”

Kern has heard market outlooks that predict the weather will get better for farmers in the next month. The area is still early in crop development. If moisture picks up, area farmers still have a chance at a “good or average” crop. If things stay dry, the area will start to see a real effect on yield and crop maturity, Kern said. 

According to Kern, there isn’t much farmers can do to help their crops outside of hoping for rain. 

“A rain dance, I guess,” Kern said. “If we can start picking up some rain in a week, I think we have potential to pull ourselves out of this.”

Svela said a good harvest this fall would be nice after the “struggle” of the past few years. He said if you ask any farmer, they’d rather sell a lot of bushels at a lower price than fewer at a higher price. Part of the farming business is regardless of what you get out of a field, the investment is the same. 

“We'll survive,” Svela said. “The crops look great and that always brings optimism. People always say a farmer is the biggest gambler there is. Which we are. It's not because we want to be. We have to be.”

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