CLARK COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — As the Commonwealth moves deeper into summer, much of Central and Southeastern Kentucky is in the "abnormally dry" category, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Some spots to the west, though, are in moderate or severe drought territory. That's been a big source of stress for farmers who are hoping for a good harvest.
Dry weather has been particularly stressful this year because the investment to plant and sustain the crops has been a lot steeper due to inflation. Farming is always a bit of a gamble, but the stakes right now are pretty high.
"My whole family's farmed all their lives, pretty much. The operation that we have today is my wife's and mine," said Brennan Gilkison, who farms thousands of acres in Clark County.
Gilkison raises corn, soybeans, and cattle. The farm life has never been for the faint of heart.
"We're farmers, business owners, all of the above! We're maintenance people. We're weather people!" he said.
2022 has been a particularly tough year.
"We've really never seen input prices this high," he said.
Input prices are costs like fuel and fertilizer.
"Farming by no means is easy, with the input prices and the weather patterns that we have in recent years. It's by no means, a walk in the park," Gilkison said.
There are so many variables in farming. One of the most important is also one no one has any control over - the liquid gold that falls from the sky.
"Back at the end of June, we were shaping up just like 2012. 2012, we had no rain from the beginning of June to the eighth of July and that's the way it was looking like here, but then we started getting the rains last week," he said.
After that rain, Gilkison is breathing a little easier.
"I feel good with this crop right now. Two weeks ago, I wouldn't have been there, but that rain was a life-saver for our area," he said. "The old-timers would call it a million-dollar rain, but due to inflation, we're probably going to call it a two or three-million dollar rain!"
Gilkison worries for his friends in other parts of the state where the drought's been getting worse and they're losing a lot of their crop.
"Ten, fifteen bushels on corn, when those fields should be yielding, in a normal year, 220 bushels," he said. "It's painfully stressful. If you know a farmer, call and check on your friends, because it's mentally challenging. Mental health of farmers is something to worry about."
Gilkison will do what he can to be there for his friends and be thankful his fields are looking up.
"We just watch and there's nothing you can do, but pray a lot of times," he said.
Over the last couple of years, the state has launched an initiative to try to improve mental health from stress in farming life. They train people in agricultural communities to look for signs of someone who needs help. For more information, visit raisinghopeky.com.