Harvest season varies for farmers across state and country after summer flooding

Harvest Season 2015 at Brechbill Farms

DEKALB COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – It’s fall, and that means farmers are busy across the country and around Indiana. After a summer full of flooding, NewsChannel 15 checked in to see how that intense dose of Mother Nature is impacting crops months later.

According to Brechbill Farms in DeKalb County, this year’s harvest season is different for everyone.

“It just varies a lot. It just kind of depends on your operation and your ground and how much rain you got,” Brechbill Farms Farm Manager Sarah Delbecq said. “Here in western DeKalb County, we got really lucky and really fortunate. I know as you head to Allen County and south of there, they had way more rain than we did and that’s going to have way more negative impacts, I think. As you head through central Indiana, they have similar problems. As you head west, they’ve had similar problems. So, us up here in our little corner, we feel really fortunate, but then at the same time, as you look at the country as a whole, and you head to the western cornbelt to Iowa to Minnesota, they’re having record crops and over here in the eastern cornbelt, we’re feeling this way too much water, it’s hurting yields, things like that.”

Brechbill farms is responsible for a decent chunk of land, and the team’s been hard at work harvesting since the end of September.

“We farm about 2,500 acres, corn, soybeans, and wheat,” Delbecq said. “It keeps us busy for sure.”

During harvest, the four-person crew works up to 19 hour days to get the job done.

“Corn, you can kind of just run it all day and night if you wanted to, but you’ve got to stop and sleep some time, I guess,” operator William Smith said.

Smith is originally from Texas and moved up to northeast Indiana about five years ago. He said the work and landscape are very different from the cotton fields he’s used to, but he likes the grueling, but rewarding nature of the job.

“It’s nice. I enjoy doing the work, and I enjoy the long hours. It’s fun to me,” Smith said. “8:00 till 3:00 in the morning if we want to, I mean it depends how things are running.”

The busy fields at Brechbill this fall are a much different picture than just a few months ago when water filled fields across the state.

“It’s been difficult to get through the year and get all the steps in that you want to get in. You find yourself kind of picking and choosing do I go spray this field, do I not, do I put fertilizer here, do I not? You just couldn’t get it all done,” Delbecq said. “It rains in one place, and then it doesn’t rain in another place, and you’re going to have completely different outcomes in those two places. You could have two fields side by side that have different characteristics whether it’s soil type or drainage or things like that, and they’re going to have totally different outcomes.”

Dealing with Mother Nature’s wrath is nothing new for this in DeKalb County farm.

“She’s probably our most important colleague and employee that’s working right alongside with us, but you kind of have no control over what she’s going to do, so we are definitely at her mercy,” Delbecq said. “We take what she gives and then we take what she doesn’t give, and you kind of make the best of it.”

After all, the Brechbill operation is more than 150 years old.

“I’m sixth generation, so we’ve been here since about 1864 in some way, shape, or form,” Delbecq said.

Despite this summer’s heavy rains, this crew considers itself lucky and this year’s harvest a success.

“We had such not so great conditions in the spring and the summer, and here we are in the fall, and it’s practically perfect. You couldn’t ask for much better,” Delbecq said.

Planting in early May before the heavy rains of June and July, and investing in a sophisticated drainage system during the last five years helped the farm survive this summer’s flooding.

“It will drain away any excess moisture that starts to come, and you can tell obviously, this year was a year to test that experiment,” Delbecq said. “You’ll have areas that have way too much moisture and prone to flooding that will be able to handle the water better, so you’re hoping that no matter what the conditions are, you’re able to raise a more consistent crop.”

A lot of farms across Indiana weren’t as lucky.

“It’s a big balance, and not everyone gets the same conditions, obviously, when it comes to the growing season,” Delbecq said. “That was huge for us. Planting early and having fields that are well-drained, those were key factors this year for sure. If we had been in the fields a month later to plant and had poorly drained soils, it would be a completely different story, and also just the location.”

The Brechbill team expects the harvest to take anywhere from a month to a month and a half to finish. The crew is done harvesting its soybeans, but has most of the corn and wheat left still.

“It just depends. Every operation is different as far as what they decide their schedules will be and you kind of have a starting time and a stopping time and things break, and that can affect your stopping time for sure. Really for us, no day is different. Every day is just another day, and you’re trying to get the crops off as quickly as you can,” Delbecq said. “All in all, I think going in you saw a lot of things that you maybe were concerned would make this not so great of a year. But, for us, for this spot, for this location, for our operation, it hasn’t been so bad. Now, I know if I say that and you go talk to some similar operation two counties away, they might say it’s one of the worst years they’ve ever had so there’s just been a lot of variation and we’re just really blessed I think to be in the situation that we’re in.”

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