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The Light Before the Hurricane

The light I could see from my front porch late Tuesday night represented so much.

I took the photo at right from my porch that night. It’s hard to see, but it’s a photo of my husband in the combine picking corn ahead of Hurricane Florence hitting North Carolina. This storm, at that point a Category 4 hurricane, was projected to hit us before the end of the week, and preparations and decisions had to be made.

This light meant another night a father missed dinner with his family and reading his sons bedtime stories. There’s no time to stop when racing Mother Nature.

This light meant leaving home before sunrise and returning under the light of the moon. We are trying not only to get a crop in but also to get the farm ready. That meant moving equipment out from under shelters, checking generators, and many other tasks, all while curing tobacco and sweet potatoes.

Tractors Moved for Hurricane

Farm equipment moved to safety before Hurricane Florence hits North Carolina

This light meant wondering if we made the right decision – to focus on the corn when we also have tobacco and sweet potatoes to harvest. Since sweet potatoes grow underground, they have the lowest risk of loss, except in areas that may flood. Cornstalks don’t stand a chance against hurricane-force winds but neither does tobacco. Tobacco must be cured – a process that can take seven or more days – in metal barns. Without generators to keep the barns running 24 hours a day, the tobacco will rot inside. We don’t have enough help to take out tobacco and keep trucks in the field to move corn. Did we make the right choice?  

This light meant accepting help from fellow farmers who were finished picking their corn. One farm sent its combine and ran it all day to help us harvest. Another loaned us a dump truck to help move corn from the field to the grain bin. 

Two combines in the field

Neighboring farmers helped harvest corn before Hurricane Florence hit land.

This light meant not only was my husband working late but he was also missing time with his family. So were his father and the other guys who work with them. With a storm approaching, it’s all hands on deck.

This light meant constantly watching the weather forecast and worrying how much rain and wind the storm will bring and how our crops left in the field will handle it. We have already invested the money for seed, fertilizer, labor, and other inputs, but we must have a crop to sell to get a paycheck.  

This light meant also getting our family ready to weather the storm. Farmers, especially those with cows who need milking or other livestock that must be fed, don’t evacuate. We’ve got tobacco barns running and sweet potatoes curing. We will be riding out the storm, so we have to get our homes stocked and ready in addition to the farm.

A similar light shines on many farms across North Carolina and other states as farmers try to get crop harvested, take measures to protect livestock, and get their farms ready for the uncertainty that’s coming. We’ve made the best decisions we could with the information we had before the storm, and we’ve done everything we can to prepare. 

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