Old Springfield cornfield fire highlights plight of local farmers

Published: Wednesday, October 09, 2019 @ 7:38 PM

Mother Nature can be your best friend or your worst enemy when it comes to farming. It?€™s proven to be the latter for Clark County farmers in 2019.

Mother Nature can be your best friend or your worst enemy, when it comes to farming. It’s proven to be the latter for Clark County farmers in 2019.

A cornfield fire on Old Springfield Road on Tuesday was a harsh reminder of the turbulent year it’s been for farmers — between flooded crops in the spring and now, drought conditions.

“I’ve talked to farmers that have been farming — their first year was in 1963 — and they’ve never seen a year as challenging as 2019,” said Evan Delk, with Integrated Ag Services, an agriculture company based out of Milford Center.

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Delk said in southeast Clark County, there was only six-tenths of rain between July 20 and Aug. 20.

Data from the United States Drought Monitor shows that the entire county experiencing a moderate drought as of Oct. 3. That’s more intense than neighboring counties like Madison County, Champaign County, Montgomery County and Greene County — which are all experiencing partial moderate droughts.

Fire officials said it was the warm, dry conditions in Clark County that led to a cornfield fire just down the road from Delk.

A harvest machine ignited the cornfield at Longdale Farm, and in all — close to 20 acres burned to the ground.

“Farmers really have to stay on top of making sure they’re blowing their machines off every day,” Delk said. “Making sure there’s no sparks starting up.”

Clark County farmer Brian Harbage said he and his crew have been taking more precautions than normal this year to avoid a situation like the Longdale Farm fire.

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“You can’t escape the dry,” he said. “I mean, even in the grass — it’s dry.”

Harbage harvests a wide array of crops including corn, wheat and soybeans.

He said in his 28 years of owning his own farming operation, 2019 has been the worst year he’s experienced.

In the spring, several area farmers were dealing with the opposite problem — flooded fields from too much rain that delayed the planting season.

Harbage’s soybeans didn’t have enough time to mature, and now he’s taking a big hit for it.

“My five year average — we’re 50 percent below that,” he said.

Harbage says thankfully he has other operations to fall back on, like raising cows and calves.

He said the only good thing about the recent weather is it’s good for harvesting, and if it continues he’d like to wrap up by Thanksgiving.

When looking back on the year, Harbage chooses to stay positive — farming is a gamble. Sometimes the gamble pays off, and sometimes it doesn’t.

“I keep saying let’s live to farm another year and hopefully next year is better,” he said.

18 — Counties in Ohio experiencing a moderate drought

.6 — Inches of rain in southeast Clark County between July 20-Aug. 20

50 — Percent yield below Brian Harbage’s five year average for soybeans

The Springfield News-Sun has written several stories covering the troubles that farmers in Clark and Champaign countiefs have experienced this year including flooded crops — and most recently, drought conditions.