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Drought conditions

Erica Ramsey Louder for Progressive Forage Published on 08 July 2021

Last month, I made the unpardonable mistake of reading Facebook comments on a somewhat politically charged article. Subconsciously, I must have been missing that kind of discord since it’s been a bit drought-like on my Facebook feed since the election.

In less than five minutes, I was 129 comments in, and my husband was asking me what got me all stirred up. “Who are these people? Don’t they know where their food comes from?” Yeah, not only was this article somewhat politically polarizing, but it was also about agriculture, or at least the comments were.

It’s not just my Facebook feed that is experiencing drought-like conditions; most of the western U.S. is facing extreme drought, and it is only getting worse. Unfortunately, the weather is only helping this situation with record-setting heat waves. Last month, temperate climates like Seattle baked in 100-plus degree temps. In southern Idaho, where we farm, our position is not quite dire, thanks to water storage levels before the drought. However, other irrigation districts and other states are not so lucky. Our neighbors to the north had the water shut off by mid-June. In that country, with that kind of water, you are lucky to get one cutting of hay. For us, the ground was dry before planting, and it feels like we can’t get ahead of the water. By the time the pivot makes one round, it looks like the corn is burning where it started. The Sunday morning beseeching for rain and thankfulness for moisture has never been so dire.

The article I should have never read the Facebook comments on was from a prominent Salt Lake City newspaper. It was advising urban and suburban residents of the Salt Lake valley on the best way to keep their lawns alive during the drought. Infrequent deep watering during the evenings was the message. The author encouraged readers to shame their neighbors if anyone’s lawn looked too green this year. The author wrote that a bit tongue in cheek, but boy-howdy did folks get defensive. The comment section on Facebook quickly evolved into not shaming your neighbors for a green lawn but shaming every farmer and farm they’ve ever driven by in their blacktop paradise. They blasted alfalfa farmers for irrigating during daylight hours, for sprinklers hitting the highway, special treatment from the government, and more or less vilified them as corrupt, greedy capitalists with one goal in mind: to destroy the environment. A few brave commentators defended Utah farmers by asking the others where they thought their food came from. The minutemen of internet research shut them up with: “I don’t eat alfalfa, do you?” “All of the hay in Utah is exported to China anyway. That hay isn’t about feeding people; it’s about making money.” Rarely are those people convinced, so I didn’t even try. I was angry but remarkably thankful for the mostly rural valley I call home, but I know well that many of you fight that fight nearly every day.

If you are experiencing a drought or not, join us in the west and #prayforrain, and while you are at it, let’s #prayforpatience with all the Facebook “experts” out there.  end mark

Erica Ramsey Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho. Email Erica Ramsey Louder.