After a 9 p.m. dinner at what our kids call "farmer time," I settled at the kitchen table to write this column. That was right after I had shooed Elizabeth, our youngest, up to bed. It wasn’t long before she was back by my side, showered and curious. "Why are you so interested in the Dust Bowl?" she asked. Having just watched the Ken Burns documentary, read much of his illustrated history and arrived home from the Flint Hills with a firsthand farmer account purchased at the K-State bookstore, it’s clear that I’m keenly interested in that historic event.
My answer was simple. I grew up with parents who lived through the "Dirty Thirties." It defined their lives and has had a lasting impact on mine. Honestly, I owe a debt of gratitude to that era. Without it, I wouldn’t have perspective.
As we endured the Drought of 2012 and watched crops wither on our land, I was struck by the monumental difference between the Dust Bowl and what we faced. This year wasn’t a disaster crop (even though it felt like it), it was a short crop. That pales in comparison to the Dust Bowl. Our children didn’t perish, our farms didn’t literally blow away and the sky wasn’t an ominous cloud of erosion that hijacked our soil.
As we head into a new year, I’m anxious about having back-to-back droughts (see Ben Potter’s weather story on page 14 for more information). No matter what comes in 2013, I know the outcome will be different than the Dust Bowl. We’ve learned to hold our soil in place, we know how to manage water and biotechnology has provided seeds that our ancestors couldn’t have imagined. Thank goodness for a learning curve—and progress.
- December 2012