WARSAW — For most Hoosiers, the soggier-than-normal 2019 spring has meant the occasional delayed or canceled picnic or postponed softball game. For Indiana’s farmers, the persistent rainfall in the past month or so has had a much more devastating effect and in some extreme cases could reap deadly results.
“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Don Zolman of Zolman Farms, based in Warsaw. “We are struggling to get our crops in. We need some dry weather.”
Reports from throughout the state indicated that Hoosier farmers are behind across the board, particularly when it comes to the state’s two most popular crops — corn and soybeans.
A report from the federal government indicated that statewide, only 22 percent of Indiana’s corn is in the ground. The same study showed soybeans are even further behind, with only 11 percent planted at the time of the report.
Kevin Boyer, who owns half of Triple B Farms with 1,800 plantable acres in Kosciusko, Marshall and Fulton counties, said the potential for massive amounts of lost revenue isn’t even the worst possible scenario that could come out of this year’s excess rainfall.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of suicide,” Boyer said, adding that while he himself is not suicidal, farmers taking their lives in situations like this is not uncommon. “It’s going to play hell on people,” he said.
“We’ve been doing this for 37 years and we’ve never had this many acres not planted at this time,” said Boyer. Triple B has 725 of 800 acres of soybeans yet to plant and 550-600 of 1,000 acres of corn still not in the ground. According to Boyer, rain has been falling on soil that is already saturated. So, even on a day with no rain and sunshine, farming equipment gets bogged down in the soaked dirt. He said farmers are not only looking at possible financial losses from crop loss, but those who brave the muddy conditions to try to get some planting done have had to deal with time loss from extracting bogged down equipment and the cost of hiring wreckers to help remove the machinery.
“We’ve got 500 to 600 acres of our best ground that we still haven’t planted and aren’t sure if we’ll get them in,” he said. “We have a neighbor who only has two fields that he hasn’t been stuck in.”
Boyer said his operation is covered by insurance, which carries with it a heavy premium each year. For insurance purposes, his deadline for finishing his corn planting is June 5, while he needs to finish soybean planting by June 20 to qualify for some relief.
“Some guys don’t have insurance because they can’t afford it,” Boyer said. “So those guys will get no help if they can’t get all their crops in.”
Matthew Graham, the director for Bowen Center’s Warsaw outpatient office, said there are numerous resources for distraught farmers and added that the stress of a devastating planting season can manifest itself in a variety of ways.
“People in difficult, stressful situations such as this can experience a variety of emotions such as anxiety and depression and may even choose to try to cope with substance abuse,” said Graham. “They may even exhibit avoidance behaviors, which can include suicide.”
Graham cautions people who are candidates for suicide, or those close to the person, to consider several questions that can underscore a person’s propensity for taking their own life — a term mental health professionals refer to as suicidal ideation.
If a person has ever, or certainly recently, wished they were dead or wished they could go to sleep and not wake up, they could be experiencing suicidal ideation. If the person has had thoughts of suicide and also if that person can articulate a plan for committing the act, they should seek help immediately.
Graham recommends a suicidal person or the loved one of such a person go to any hospital emergency room. The person needing help can also walk into any Bowen Center outpatient office during regular business hours and be seen within one hour. For emergency suicide intervention after hours, the Bowen Center’s inpatient unit is located in Pierceton at 9 Pequignot Drive.
Suicidal persons can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.
“Farming really hasn’t been very good the last couple of years,” said Boyer. “Even the dairy farmers have been having trouble.”