HOBART — Farming was in Zac Harris' heart long before wife Amy found her way to it.
That's why she really can't say she got a vote in the decision to make a living from agriculture.
“They tell me Zac said that he wanted to farm since he was a little boy,” Amy Harris said.
Married in 2003, Zac and Amy Harris raise children, wheat and cattle around Hobart in southwestern Oklahoma. Certainly it was no shock to these 29-year-old parents that the U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday now includes areas of their county, Kiowa County, in the extreme drought category.
Extreme drought now extends from the Red River north to a point just short of the Oklahoma County-Logan County line. While it bullies its way north, the extreme drought continues to push out to the south, reaching both Harmon County in the far southwest and McCurtain County in the far southeast.
A majority of the rest of the state is classified in a severe drought.
It's a historic predicament considering the state was drier in the four months following Thanksgiving than it has been in that four-month span since 1921.
That's a bold statement in Oklahoma, known in part for the 1930s Dust Bowl. So many Oklahomans are left staring at empty blue skies and clinging to their faith.
“Rain is mentioned more toward the first in our prayers and again at the last,” said Zac Harris, a fourth-generation farmer and rancher. “I was trying to be upbeat about it until Sunday, but with not much chance of rain in the 10-day, I just think it's pretty well over.”
Don't take that as a white flag. Instead, the Harrises said they are regrouping before moving forward.
The last rain at Hobart that amounted to much was 2.11 inches Nov. 11-15, according to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. Since then they have had only seven-tenths of an inch.
And that's left more than just the crops stressed.
On a farm, the dinner table is the boardroom table. In the next six weeks, the couple will make numerous managerial decisions.
“Financially, we do have crop insurance, which is a savior,” Amy Harris said.
However, she said that with the type of crop insurance they have, they will receive 65 percent of their five-year average yield of bushels per acre. It gets a little more complicated from there if they want to insure another crop, like cotton.
The many questions that will be discussed and debated at the dinner table include: Will there even be enough moisture to plant dryland cotton? They've missed their first cutting of alfalfa hay. Will they be able to grow any hay? Too, will they have to start selling some cows?
“We're not going to have enough grass or pond water to keep all of the cattle through the summer,” Amy Harris said. “There are a lot of long-term decisions to be made.”
Even though the Harrises are young, they've had to “cinch up our belts before,” Amy Harris said.
Take for instance that sorry wheat crop in 2006. It just so happens that was the year they bought their house and the year their son was born.
When Amy Harris talks about long-term decisions, she's not just referring to this spring and summer. They have daughter Kenda, 7, son Rylan, 4, and daughter Trale', 1.
“With your kids you're trying to make sure that you not only provide their daily needs, but provide for their future,” she said.
Giving it a chance
The Harrises have already invested a lot in this crop, including fertilizer, pesticide and diesel for equipment.
“We had to give it a chance,” Amy Harris said. “We farm for the passion and the livelihood and to feed America.”
Zac Harris said he is amazed that the wheat crop hung on as long as it did. Now he's not even sure there is enough to cut for seed wheat for next year's crop. But he has faith that the crop insurance will give them enough to plant other crops, and that it will rain.
Basically, he has hope that better days are ahead.
“The good Lord's going to provide,” he said.
That's one thing they don't have to discuss.
“You know in the Bible it's says pray without ceasing?” Amy Harris said. “That's kind of where we stand.”
You know in the Bible it's says pray without ceasing? That's kind of where we stand.”