McCook County farmer optimistic after 2022's devastating derecho
Drew Peterson had to rebuild nearly his whole farm after the 2022 derecho. Now, he's looking ahead to this next growing season.
SALEM, S.D. — On May 12, 2022, many farmers across eastern South Dakota saw significant damage to their operations as a widespread wind storm, known as a derecho, tore across the state.
At Drew Peterson’s crop and cattle farm, he lost most of his buildings and had damage to all of his grain bins from the spring storm.
The rebuilding process has not been easy.
“The rebuilding, it was really ongoing,” Peterson said. “First it was demo, getting everything torn down, that took all summer into fall. We focused on getting our bins rebuilt first. All of those were rebuilt before the end of the year, most of them were done in time for harvest.”
Shed rebuilding began in December.
“The weather really slowed down that process, I mean it probably took three times as long to get these sheds rebuilt just because snow would blow in, the conditions were just terrible,” Peterson said.
But now the rebuilding process is starting to come to an end.
Since the buildings were not finished before winter, all his equipment that would normally be parked inside has been sitting outside in the elements.
“And unfortunately, some of them have ended up in snowbanks, just kind of a drift, they just kind of become part of a drift,” Peterson said. “So, some of that stuff we have gotten dug out, but a lot of it is still there, and what we realized is when we have been trying to dig it out, the snow is just so hard we are really worried about damaging the equipment worse by moving it then just letting it melt.”
Not only is the equipment in the snow, but so were some of the building materials, which caused a major delay in construction.
“The construction crews had all the tin and the wood spread out everywhere, not expecting it to storm and have as much snow as we did,” Peterson said. “So, we had building supplies under snow. So we couldn’t move snow because we didn’t want to wreck anything, so everything just kind of had to sit in place.”
Even though it slowed down construction and buried his equipment, Peterson is thankful for the moisture after having three dry years.
“We are really glad we got the moisture to really kind of flip the page into this next season, for both grass and crops,” said Peterson. “We really needed the moisture. It presented a lot of challenges, but it presents us some good opportunities to have some moisture in the ground.”
Last year, not only did Peterson have to deal with storm clean-up and rebuilding, but he saw dry conditions across his operation.
“We didn’t really have any moisture after late July last year to finish our crops off,” Peterson said. “Our water table was really, really low, and we saw that when we harvested last year. I would say our lighter ground also got less rain and our better ground got a little more rain, so yields really varied corn and soybeans. In both crops, we had doubling from our low to our high, they were twice as much.”
Peterson is thankful that he utilizes Enhanced Coverage Option and Supplement Coverage Option crop insurance, especially on years like 2022.
“They are very expensive. We are spending four times as much as we ever have, but like this year it was really good situation for us,” Peterson said.
With the amount of snowfall this winter and spring, Peterson expects planting to be delayed.
“I would rather have the moisture and plant a little late than be really dry and get everything in before the first of May,” Peterson said. “We do have good tile in a lot of our ground so some of that will be easier to get in to. The ground that is wetter that might be a little more of a challenge. But you can’t raise a crop without moisture, so we are happy to have it.”
In a normal year, Peterson would be in the field around April 20, but this year, he expects to be in the field the first week of May.
“That’s a month away, anything could happen,” Peterson said. “But the forecast is in the 50s next week so I think we will do it. It might be one of those spread-out planting seasons.”
Peterson is optimistic that this year will bring better yields than the past few years.
“With the good start, and we fill up our water profile like I think we are, I think a lot of the snowpack, except the last couple days, the water just started running. I think a lot of it did go in the ground,” Peterson said. “So that gives us a good starting point for moisture, you know our moisture bank is getting refilled and I think we have a good potential.”
But he has learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to farming in South Dakota.
“We have really learned to roll with it. Every day you just don’t really know what to expect, and when you’ve got livestock, that’s the kind of the case anyways,” said Peterson. “But you’ve got to expect the unexpected a little bit and learn how to roll with it. As long as everybody can bear down and keep going forward and not kind of get stuck in a rut when unexpected things come your way, that’s what it takes around here.”
After a rough 2022, Peterson says he is excited for the potential normal year ahead.
“I am excited to not mess around with building and demo and all that stuff,” said Peterson. “Just a normal farm year sounds like a lot of fun to me.”