I write this as the rain is finally coming down in the valley, wet snow in the high country.
In Durango, moisture in two of the last five days has been a rarity, albeit welcome. Unfortunately, the rains that came last Saturday were sporadic, as not all of the southwestern corner of the state got the 20-minute downpour. I’m assuming it rained because four hours earlier I dragged out the hose to try to wake up the brown lawn.
And while this time of year returns romance and excitement to the garden and to the yard, many of us hold this prolonged dry spell in the back of mind, wondering what our landscapes – lawn, vegetable garden, trees, ornamental plantings – are going to look like this summer or if they are going to survive.
Yet there are many in this area whose livelihoods depend on the moisture. Small-scale farmers, nurseries, livestock owners and hay producers had to change their business model for 2018 because they don’t know how much, when or if water will come. We have vegetable producers reducing their farmable acreage from 8 to 1; livestock owners who are reducing their herd because they don’t have enough water to irrigate their pasture and are having a tough time with the scarcity of hay in the area; and hay producers who are skipping at least one cutting this year. And even though that may not seem like much, we need to remember that this is their life. Imagine if your business income was cut in half, or if your employer decided that each day you would only work one hour instead of eight?
At a drought workshop that the Colorado State University Extension hosted in March, one of the attendees – a farmer/rancher from Montezuma County – mentioned that the way they farm – and the way they’ve farmed for three generations – is that they plan for seven out of every 10 years to be under drought conditions. They are coming out of three years of good moisture, so now they expect seven without.
With the start of the Durango Farmers Market next Saturday (8 a.m. to noon in the First National Bank parking lot) and then upcoming markets in Bayfield, Three Springs, Mancos and Cortez, I just want to gently remind you that this could be a tough year for our local farmers and ranchers. They may not have all the produce you are accustomed to finding on their tables. Their prices could be a bit higher than last year.
But know that it’s (probably) not because they are just trying to fatten their wallets. More than likely, it’s because their jobs are based off a yearly game with Mother Nature, and right now, she is holding the best hand. It’s difficult to win when you are holding a pair of deuces, but hopefully, the last card flipped will be one more two. And then, we wait to see who wins.
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at [email protected] or 382-6464.Darrin Parmenter