The Planted Row: Farming without coverage takes courage

Farm Forum

On Saturday my wife joined other National Weather Service employees in conducting a damage survey after the recent storms. She spoke with one woman who said they had lost their crop and had no crop insurance.

According to Dawn Brandt, FSA Brown County executive director, without crop insurance, there is currently no other disaster assistance program to help a farmer who loses a crop to a weather event.

As a young man considering what to do with my life, I didn’t think farming was the best option. While I enjoyed farm work, it seemed like I would have to be a full time gambler. Every growing season, it seemed like we were fighting everything nature could throw at us: too much or too little rain, hail, wind, weeds, and bugs. Every time my dad put a crop in the ground, it seemed like a big gamble. Sometimes it paid off big time. Sometimes we were barely breaking even. I didn’t know if I could take the uncertainty of a farming life. I knew first hand how much work went into it and how little it sometimes paid. I knew what it did to my parents’ marriage, and I didn’t want that for my wife and kids.

Later, crop insurance became more popular, and that was an eye-opener for me. It was too late for me by then, but it seemed like a way to make the risk tolerable enough to bet a future on it. It made farming a reasonable career choice (if you could get in the game).

Today, with no other fallback disaster assistance available and Mother Nature as wild as ever, I admire the courage of farmers who decide to forego crop insurance, but my heart breaks for them and their families when I see those red blobs indicating hail moving across a radar screen.

Farm history

As I mentioned in last week’s column, for the next few weeks we’ll devote a portion of the paper to highlight the history of agriculture here on the Northern Plains. This week’s selection was provided by a reader who thinks his father “was probably the last farmer in McPherson County to quit farming with horses.” The article describes what agriculture was like before tractors were able to do so many of the chores they handle today. You can find the article and photos on page 78F.

Farm Forum 50th Anniversary Capture Dakota Book

The Farm Forum is turning 50, and to celebrate we’re publishing a hardcover book that celebrates farming and agriculture in photos.

Our upcoming Farm Forum 50 book will be a collaborative project by our readers and staff. The book will be filled with photos taken right here in the Dakotas by both professional and amateur photographers. Reader photos will be the main focus of the book, and you can participate by submitting or voting on photos at You can also find links to the photo contests at Multiple categories have been highlighted and include Barns & Buildings, Farm Animals, and Farm Kids.

Keep reading and watching the Farm Forum in print and online for special promotional offers pertaining to the Farm Forum 50th Capture Book which could include special limited prints from the book as well as bonus offers for pre-ordering the book.

We’re hoping that the end result is a dynamic look at farming across the Dakotas. The books will make excellent gifts and conversation starters for your family and friends (especially those interested in photography). Preorder your Farm Forum 50 book online today at

Contest winner

This week’s Farm Forum 50th anniversary cash giveaway contest winner is Richard Beitelspacher of Bowdle, S.D. He will receive a replica windmill and is eligible to win the $5,000 cash grand prize. Prizes are mailed at the end of each month.