On Drought and Frailty

“We’ve lost… what’s 300 times 30?” He did the quick calculation. “Yeah, 9,000. Somewhere around 9,000 ears of corn this season. The meteorologist says this might be the worst drought since the ‘30s.” Out at the Farm, the leaves are browning. The food is drying up. Ashes to ashes. Dustbowl to dustbowl.

I rode down through southwest Arkansas last week. The cows in Grannis are skinnying up. Their skin hangs loose across lean muscle and they eat crispy Bermuda. If they could beg, they plead for rain. They’d ask to have their ponds refilled; they’d ask for a fresh green shoot or two. My traveling companion says, “I wouldn’t want to be a cattle farmer this year. They’ll have to take ‘em to market early and that’ll hurt.” I stare past highway mirages and say, “yeah” as if I know something about the cattle market. But it’s evident that something’s not right. Cattle ought not to look this way.

Mike and I spoke about the weather at length last night. We went on like two eighty year old farmers at the coffee shop, the kind that wear Carhart overalls and John Deere caps. “It’s humbling,” he says. “Without rain, the Farm’s going to keep losing produce and there is nothing we can do to change that.”

He takes a slow breath; it’s telephonic pause that says listen closely.

“Corn and cattle won’t be good this year. But we’ll just truck it in from the Midwest, and if it fails in the Midwest, we’ll truck it in from California, and if it fails in California, we’ll truck it up from Mexico. The rich, we’ll transport food in from foreign lands. Fill our bellies to the point of forgetting. We’ve lost what it means to be dependent on our own land. We’ve forgotten that drought is a reminder of frailty.”

I agree. Respond “umm-hmm.” Give him space to tie it together.

“And if we truly remembered those things,” he said, “we’d pray for rain like we actually believe in God.”

Today it will be 97 degrees, but there is a 40% chance of precipitation. If it fell, it’d be the first rain to hit the Farm in 8 weeks. Today, I’m going to pray like I believe in God.

Join me.

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**Anecdotally, a recent study has noted that we currently consume 3 calories of fossil fuels to grow 1 calorie of food.  In addition, we use another 7-10 calories of fuel to produce and transport that same calorie of food.  This is not a post on bioethics or stewardship, but the statistics make one wonder about the current course of food production.