Target 3 Special: Faces of Drought Part 4

- Steve Marten is a no till farmer in Archer County. He grew up in a farming family and has farmed his whole life. He says farmers are eternal optimists, knowing they will have good years and bad years, but he's never experienced anything like this drought!.

Marten says dealing with extreme weather conditions is nothing new but, as the drought lingers, with no clear end in sight, it becomes a bigger problem for everyone.

“Farmers always have to deal with weather issues, rain droughts and floods being one of them. It is starting to have an effect on everybody because we're seeing now that it's affecting people in town too, just as much as farmers,” says Marten.

Those effects could add up to food price increases as two of his crops are producing about half as much as they normally do.

“Of the fields that I’ve planted in canola, I still have one left remaining and it's pretty much, I don't know what it's gonna make at this point but I know it won't make a full crop. It's probably less than half a crop, “says Marten.

And when you stand by his wheat fields the yield projection looks the same as plants are half as tall as they should be. Marten says late freezes this winter have also set back crops growth but surviving a freeze is much easier with enough rain. That combination made him cut back where he could trying to save money and resources this spring.

“We could tell that we wasn't gonna have a bumper crop or a great crop and there was still no rain in the forecast so we decided to try to save some of our inputs and save some money there, so we kind of cut back, either didn't top dress with fertilizer or didn't do as much as a full crop,” says Marten.

And the plants aren't his only concern. A few years ago he had about 80 calf-cow pairs, but this almost empty water hole has forced him to sell about half of his animals.

“With short grass we can kind of manage and supplemental feed. But when the tanks go dry and the cattle don't have anything to drink, you have no options,” says Marten.

Marten says those options may get even more slim if rain doesn't fall soon.

“I doubt that we will be able to go through a hot dry summer with the high evaporation rate so we may have to liquidate all the herd,” says Marten.

He says once his herd is gone, they will be almost impossible to replace.

“You put a herd together with genetics, with the type of cattle you want and that doesn't happen overnight. So it takes some time to get a heard developed the way you like it,” says Marten.

Marten says he hopes it never gets to that point because farming is not just a job to him. His cows and crops are more than a paycheck. It's all part of a lifestyle- a lifestyle despite the struggles. He says he loves and wouldn't trade for anything and he believes one thing will get us out of this drought.

“Praying certainly helps, farmers do a lot of that,” says Marten.

Marten says his no till farming method and picking more drought tolerant crops has helped him survive the last few years. Over all he says he has no complaints, but hopes everyone will continue to conserve where they can since the lack of water does affect everyone.

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