By mid-afternoon, Curtis Atkins has been working for an hour and a half, and the harvest doesn’t even fill half his truck. Driving the John Deere combine over the rows of dried corn, a stream of kernels rushes from the machine into a white semi with his name on the door. Atkin’s Farms.
Like other Midwest farmers, Atkins has been hit by this year’s drought. He says his corn sprouted and died on the stalk. On top of low yields, he’s struggling to maintain his 150 head of cattle.
He chuckles about his situation. But his voice is strained.
Audio:“My dad says everything’ going to be normal, everything’s going to be fine. But what’s normal anymore? Every year’s different. It’s a challenge every year.”
Atkins says the biggest challenge is just finding enough hay and water for the cattle.
Audio:“I used to think I had ponds everywhere. Hell, I got ponds everywhere but there’s nothing in them. They’re all dried up.”
Atkins says at the least no cows have gotten stuck in the mud trying to get something to drink. If the drought continues, Atkins can’t say what he’ll do.
Audio:“I don’t know, you tell me [laughs]. We get harvest over with and we start figuring that stuff out.”
Atkins’ harvest is ahead of schedule. He says he’s already finished picking 200 acres of corn because the dry weather. The rest of the corn still has to dry before he can pick it.
By 3 p.m. he has finished work for the day and drives the combine away in a cloud of dust.
– Edited by Sonja Gjerde