By BILL MARDIS, Editor Emeritus Commonwealth Journal
Conversations ranged from the legislative pipeline to Frankfort, to comparisons of the current heat and drought to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, all with tongue in cheek forecasts of a good persimmon crop to fatten possums this fall.
The serious talk and casual banter were at the annual Legislative-Media Appreciation Breakfast, sponsored July 4 by the Pulaski County Farm Bureau.
Kentucky House members Sara Beth Gregory and Terry Mills and state-senator-to-be Chris Girdler emphasized to the Farm Bureau group their readiness to assist with any and all agricultural endeavors.
“Agriculture and the farming community are the backbone of America,” said Girdler. “There is not a more influential organization in the nation than Farm Bureau,” he added.
“When Farm Bureau members can come together and get on a first-name basis with their legislators it’s a positive thing for the farmer,” said Mark Haney, president of Kentucky Farm Bureau.
With an eye toward a burning sun and drought conditions damaging farm crops, Bill White, president of Pulaski County Farm Bureau, kept trying to find someone old enough to recall the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
Richard Sewell, retired dairy farmer from the Valley Oak area, finally conceded he was 12 years old in 1936 when Kentucky skies were blinded by dust and temperatures soared as high as 114 degrees, an all-time record.
The Dust Bowl was a period of severe dust storms causing major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands, particularly in 1934 and 1936. The phenomenon was caused by severe drought coupled with decades of extensive farming without crop rotation.
“I have seen the time when dust was so thick in Pulaski County you could look directly at the sun and not hurt your eyes,” Sewell recalled. “We didn’t have enough rain to make dirt stick to your feet barefooted as you walked through the field. Corncobs weren’t much bigger than my thumb,” Sewell remembered, eliciting a suggestion this may have been the origin of the word “nubbin.”
Sewell compared the current heat and drought and lingering recession to the Great Depression of the 1930s. “I worked many times (during the Great Depression) for 25 cents a day,” Sewell said.
On the other hand, Sewell pointed out that crops today are much more resistant to this type of weather. “It’s a matter of opinion ... I am glad I learned what I did then and applied it,” he concluded.
A member of Pulaski County Farm Bureau since 1947, Sewell said “ ... to me, in our country today, agriculture is doing more ... Farm Bureau is doing more than any organization except our churches. Farm Bureau ... agriculture is the key to where we are.”
There are 9,000 family members in Pulaski County Farm Bureau, White said. The mission of Farm Bureau is to support agricultural organizations and lobby state and national lawmakers on issues affecting farmers and rural living, he noted.
Finally, when the some 33 Farm Bureau members and guests filled with country ham, eggs, gravy and all the trimmings, Dave Bingham said outlook around Dabney is good for a fine crop of persimmons; harbinger of fat possums this winter. Now, if only we get rain and make some sweet potatoes, living will be good.