The Drought Resilient Farm

 

Drought is a force of nature that has devastated the lives of farmers and ranchers throughout history and has even destroyed entire civilizations. The devastating effects of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, when over 200,000 people left in forced migration due to the nation’s worst climate disaster, still linger in the High Plains almost a century later. Given the havoc and human misery that drought has caused throughout the ages, you would think that there would be a plethora of books written on the topic. But there are not. Why? Most agriculturalists have simply thrown up our hands and given up, resigning ourselves to the inevitable fate that drought is God's will, and there is absolutely nothing we can do to cushion its impact. This is wrong. It actually deeply frustrates me to to listen to people pray for rain during a drought. (Instead, farmers should pray for my book or just buy one!) Seriously, though, I imagine God listening to these prayers and thinking, "Why should I give you another rain? You squandered the last one I gave you!” The truth of the matter is most of our agricultural practices and "management" for the last 7000 years have made us MORE susceptible to drought, not less. Common farming methods have decreased infiltration of rainfall, reduced the root depth of our crops, and reduced the water holding capacity of our soils. I believe we should not be praying for rain; I am not opposed to prayer itself, far from it. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe we are praying for the wrong thing.

 

Instead of praying for rain, we should be praying for the knowledge, wisdom, and will necessary to create farms and ranches that can withstand drought. Suppose we are going to call ourselves “stewards” of the land. In that case, farmers and ranchers should at the very least bother to learn how to do it right instead of using the same counterproductive management over and over and expecting different results. In the historic drought of 2012, I saw fields of corn dying from drought, while across a mere barbed wire fence, there were neighboring fields of corn on the same soil, receiving the same rain, that were producing nearly normal yields. Those differences were entirely due to different systems of management. I decided then that my observations and methods need to be shared so that people in the future may suffer less from drought than they have in the past. The year of 2012 was not the only drought in my lifetime, far from it. According to National Integrated Drought Information System, since 1980 the US has had 26 major droughts that cost the nation at least $249 billion, with an average cost of more than $9.6 billion incurred during each event.

 

I began to formally compile a list of my observations of the management practices that caused both the failures and the successes. I embarked on a series of article writings that eventually led to the book The Drought Resilient Farm. As I wrote this book, devastating droughts and the related problems of extreme-climate-event flooding and wildfires dominated the news. Poor soil management was disturbingly missing from the national news as a core contributing factor.

The Drought Resilient Farm describes techniques for increasing the ability of soil to capture more rainfall, retain an increased amount of moisture for more extended periods between rain events, and maximize the ideal natural ability of plants to extract moisture from greater depths of the soil. A second section discusses methods of providing feed and water to pastured livestock during drought. The book also contains a plan to create a more moisture-efficient agricultural system in the semi-arid plains and steppe regions that are most vulnerable to periodic droughts. This book contains the instructions for creating a farm or ranch and state civil engineering practices that let farmers and states shrug off droughts with ease. If you desire to have a drought-resilient operation – and who wouldn't? – you need this book.