Sponsored by:

Brian: A whirlwind of activity…literally.

Greenfield, Iowa — Anyone who works on a farm knows firsthand there is never a dull moment. No matter the season, it’s always a whirlwind of activity on a farm. Our fall harvest of corn and soybeans saw yields that defied the severity of the drought conditions here in Iowa nearly all year. We had great harvest weather and amazingly even set some yield records on our farm. Winter was not as forgiving, and in January we endured one of the worst blizzards in recent memory. Ridiculous winds created drifting I’ve never experienced, and prolonged windchills of -45° F lasted for days. Eventually I abandoned the Iowa icebox and warmed up my toes on the sandy beaches of Puerto Rico for my very own destination wedding.

Silage chopping last fall gave us the first glimpse of what would turn out to be surprisingly good yields.
Wrapping up the last field of soybeans before focusing on corn harvest.
Despite the sever drought, timely rains produced lots of grain and kept the grain cart very busy.
16 rows at a time, corn harvest wrapped up with few rain delays and set a few record yields.
As the sun sets paisley skies cast shadows that make the world look different at dusk.
We won’t forget the January blizzard that left behind drifts that made caring for livestock a challenge.
A tropical escape from the frozen Iowa tundra, complete with Puerto Rican palm trees.

Spring started off with unusually warm temperatures that allowed fieldwork to get started earlier than normal. Corn planting saw nearly perfect conditions, but soybean seeding came to an abrupt halt as severe storms pelted us with hail and heavy rains all too frequently. While we desperately needed the moisture to ease drought conditions, accomplishing work around the farm has been a muddy mess. A small window of dry weather allowed us to push nearly around the clock with the planter for more than 48 hours, successfully finishing the last field before another heavy round of storms soaked the countryside.

The sun comes up as the planter pulls another all-nighter as we try to beat the rain.
Soybean planting has been hampered by wet weather, but ultimately we beat the next round of rain.

With farm work (mostly) done, the crew has been laser focused on Oklahoma wheat harvest preparations. Like I said, there’s always a whirlwind of activity on the farm, but on May 21 that phrase took on a devastating meaning for my local community. Early a.m. thunderstorms were followed up by a second round of severe weather at noon. With a third system approaching around 3 p.m., storm fatigue was setting in for a lot of us, but severe thunderstorm warnings escalated to tornado warnings, and the meteorologist on TV started showing radar debris images that defied logic, encompassing the entire town of Greenfield. While most of our crew was hunkered down on the farm 7 miles east of town, Vernelle had taken cover in the storm shelter of Greenfield’s hospital.

It took less than 60 seconds for the EF4 tornado to rip a path across town like a buzzsaw, tossing debris at 185 mph. Vernelle called to confirm she was OK, but she had evacuated the hospital due to a gas leak. About 20 minutes later I arrived in town to what can only be described as a disorienting, apocalyptic nightmare you only see in the movies. It was hard to find your bearings as every landmark had vanished. Empty space replaced blocks of houses and buildings, and piles of debris blocked every street. Any tree not uprooted was stripped of its bark, people were missing, and cars were upside down in piles. I was sick to my stomach, sick to see my hometown unrecognizable. The outpouring of resources from local communities (along with state and national organizations) has been monumental, and the cleanup/rebuilding efforts of more than 150 homes and businesses has brought the Greenfield community together in a way never seen before.

It turns out a hometown tornado tragedy is a big distraction in preparing to leave for harvest. The crew has tried to balance spending time packing while at the same time donating time toward the recovery work in town, but our efforts always feel proportionally so small compared to the need. In the end, Vernelle’s car was totaled from flying debris, but it’s hard not to feel almost ashamed to mention such a trivial loss. We are so grateful our farmstead and family were left unharmed, but it’s hard to shake the sense of sadness that creeps in knowing just how much our friends and community are hurting.

Wheat harvesters spend their entire summer living in tornado alley, and most of us have a long list of memorable storm stories. But this summer will feel a little different for our crew. In the whirlwind of every day harvest activities we’ll be watching those storm clouds with a little more caution. This harvest has certainly started off with a twist(er)…one that we could easily have done without.

Radar captures tornado debris 40,000 feet in the air, engulfing our home town of Greenfield.
From the sky, the path of tornado destruction cuts across the town and left little to salvage.
Large equipment attempted to clear the streets, creating paths for emergency vehicles.
Vernelle found shelter in the local hospital building, but her car was a total loss after the storm.
Upside down trailers, cars in piles, and trees with the bark pulled off…clear indicators this was an EF4.
No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.