Originally Posted by Antares
Thanks for sharing the story behind it; how very sad that many people are losing their land because of the drought. I guess that's one good thing here in Texas--we're kinda used to droughts (at least more so than some who get rain much more frequently).
Unfortunately last summers drought was the final straw for many of the smaller farms. It all started about 4 years ago with that severe downturn in the economy, Michigan was hit hard (the auto industry). Prices for everything, including food, were forced down, where they didn't go down people didn't buy because they had no money. Bottom line is everyone was affected, not just the auto industry workers.
The economy picked up a bit but Spring of 2011 was so wet, 4" of rain in April, 6" in May stands out for me, and it rained heavily in March and June too. The fields were under standing water and couldn't be plowed, the crops couldn't be planted. It didn't dry out enough until late June / early July, far too late to plant anything and get a good yield. Our food prices went through the roof that year, the stores were buying in from other states and our farmers lost out again. They also had to buy in winter feed for their animals as they couldn't grow enough of that either.
Spring of 2012 was the opposite... March was hot and sunny, we topped 80F on a lot of days, a bit of rain, some thunderstorms (and an EF3 tornado!!), but it encouraged all the fruit trees and bushes to blossom far too early. This was followed by killing frosts through April and May. I don't know if you know but Michigan is second only to California in the diversity of our agriculture. We're also the cherry producing capital of the US, producing 70% - 80% of the cherries eaten, baked and canned in this country. We have a diverse range of other fruit too, our fruit industry alone is worth 6.6 billion $ to Michigan. Because of the early Spring followed by the freeze we lost 90% of our cherries and apples, 95% of our peaches and 85% of our pears, the other fruits were also badly affected. You can imagine what this did to the farmers.
We also grow a huge amount of sweet corn, sugar beet, potatoes, alfalfa and soy beans. These weren't affected by the freeze as most were only just being planted and hadn't germinated. It was nice to see the fields full of green crops again as I drove to work last year but it didn't last as we got no rain. By the end of June we'd had no rain at all and had 25 consecutive days over 90F, that pattern continued in July, adding consecutive days over 100F too which is unheard of for us. Only the large farms with access to wide scale irrigation were able to survive it, by the time the drought broke the majority of the farmers had once again lost everything, and were once again facing another winter of losses and not being able to maintain their property or their livestock. This was the final straw for most of them. This is how Betty ended up with her little flock of Icelandics. Her sheep were luckier than most as the farmer called the bank, the Humane Society and his neighbours before leaving the property, so they were able to collect and rehome his animals. Unfortunately others weren't so lucky, some farmers just left and didn't tell anyone. I won't elaborate on that, I'm sure you can imagine what they found when someone finally realised the farms had been deserted and the animals weren't being taken care of.
Sorry GrumpyGramma, but this back story is a little sadder than I first portrayed! Let's hope the weather plays nicely this year and the farmers can recoup some of their losses. Most people don't realise how hard my adopted state has been hit in the last few years, or how diverse it is. When they think of Michigan they only think of the auto industry and nothing else.