Growing your own food is a very rewarding experience. However, it is also a lot more difficult than many people realize.
How to Start a Farm
When deciding to start a farm, it is important to research the market and determine how much it will cost to operate.
In the Texas panhandle, the winter wheat crop is being called a complete failure this year due to a lack of moisture.
Jason Schickedanz, a farmer in Ochiltree County, Texas, says, “The dryland winter wheat in our area is nonexistent.” Of the farm’s 2,500 acres of dryland wheat, he expects to harvest zero this season.
“What little bit [of wheat] we did have come up died in December,” Schickedanz says explaining the crop’s deaths a result of the subzero temperatures that hit this winter, and no root system to protect itself.
Over 4% of Texas is facing D4 exceptional drought conditions. These hardest hit areas are experiencing conditions “very similar to the Dust Bowl,” says Schickedanz.
A little over 12% of the state is facing D3 extreme drought conditions, while over 21% is in a D2 severe drought. Almost 21% of Texas is experiencing D1 moderate drought conditions, and over 19% of the state is dealing with abnormally dry conditions. Drought free acreage only covers 22% of the state, according to the latest drought monitor.
Because of the dry conditions, Schickedanz says he doesn’t plan on planting any dryland cotton this year. On his operation, the irrigated wheat he currently has planted has required more water, much like irrigated corn, versus normal years. More water means higher input costs, “especially with the inflation-driven rise in energy prices,” Schickedanz says. Additional labor is also needed because of the extra irrigation, he shares.
Fifth generation farmer Daniel Sell, a farmer from Lipscomb County Texas, shared many of the same sentiments, saying “We’re drier now than in the 30s, but we have better farming practices.”
Sell regularly shares his struggles as a fifth generation sorghum and wheat farmer on social media. An April 4 video on Instagram shows the dry conditions his operation is facing.
Sell says some days 60 mph winds kick up so much dust that “you can’t see past the hood of your pickup.”
Schickedanz echoes, “Every week for the last three months there’s been 1 or 2 days every week that dirt has been blowing.”
Of the six years that Sell has been actively involved on the farm, he says only two have been good, with the rest being pretty dry. “We know we can grow good crops,” he says. “It’s just dry.”
USDA’s Crop Progress and Condition Report released on April 10 shows statewide winter wheat conditions were rated 22% very poor, 25% poor, 36% fair, 15% good, and 2% excellent Texas winter wheat headed reached 31%, which was 5 points up from this time in 2022.
When it comes to harvesting his winter wheat, Sell admits that he’s debating making an insurance claim, as others in his area have already done, due to the conditions of the crop. He says even perfect conditions the rest of the wheat growing season would be too little, too late to fix the drought’s damage. “If I do have a failed wheat crop,” Sells says “I might plant milo as a Hail Mary.”
Early this week, Sell pleaded with his Instagram followers to share a drought map splattered with shades of red and pray for rain. A graphic quoted Zechariah 10:1, “Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime; it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms. He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone.” A 10% chance of rain in the forecast is something Sell “chalk[s] up to the Lord letting me know He’s still there,” following the post..
“Pray for Texas, pray for Oklahoma, pray for Kansas, pray for everyone in a drought,” Sell says.