Today's Farmer is online and in social mediaWhen I put these words down, those of us crop watchers in northeast Missouri could ask each other with legitimate concern if August was going to bring too much rain. Up here on the claypan, even after a rain, we say we're only a couple weeks away from a serious drought. But the same claypan that keeps roots from reaching deep-soil moisture in dry times holds water near the surface when it rains. It's true that our shallow soils may only be a couple weeks away from a drought, but this claypan bathtub full of muck will have to stop getting filled once a week to get us there.
Writing about weather is a fool's game, of course. In the lead time it takes to print this magazine we could have a variety of cataclysmic weather events. This is the Midwest, after all. It's the place Mother Nature most often reveals her passive-aggressive behavior.
Plenty of folks around Holt, Mo., will remember that June afternoon in 1942 when it rained 12 inches in 42 minutes. The National Weather Service calls that one a world record, by the way. The past few days we've flirted with decades-old high temperatures. Touch wood, but by the time this is in your hands, we could have had a freakish early frost.
The best weather writer I've been around was Sid Barnard. He didn't fret about what a magazine's lead time would do to his weather forecasts because he based them all on 10-year trends. He couldn't have called the 42-incher at Holt, but Barnard's forecasts were well read. He was accurate on trends and had an astrologer's touch with language so that the daily weather just fit. Best of all, he wrote his forecasts months in advance-from Arizona or the Philippines. They came by post and we typeset them.
Sid left the earthly world before farmers could punch a few buttons on a cell phone to see a real-time radar picture of the weather. It was before the monthly cycle of a farm magazine had been fully punctuated by the Internet, where daily information is the rule.
We've been reckoning with that new information cycle lately. I'm happy to announce that Today's Farmer is available online.
Type www.todaysfarmer.com in your Web browser to have a look. We designed the site to accommodate a daily news flow as well as make available the contents of Today's Farmer magazine. Leave us a message there to tell us what you think.
Aside from posting news that is too timely to make the print edition of Today's Farmer, the site will give voice to MFA technical experts. I'll keep a web log, too-a place to document regional and national agricultural trends as well as comment on the passing rural scene (click on the "blog" tab to get there).
We want the site to evolve to fit its readers' needs, so be sure to provide feedback with your visit.
If it's not too ironic to do it in print, I should also mention that we're on Facebook. Go to www.facebook.com/todaysfarmer and click on the "like" button atop the page. See if you have any friends there. If you don't, invite some. Meanwhile, you can follow us on Twitter by searching that site for Todays_Farmer.
As I explain all of these new things, I must also report sad news. We recently lost long-time contributor Mitch Jayne. He passed away on Aug. 2, in Columbia, Mo., after a battle with cancer.
Mitch's humor column gave the pages of Today's Farmer a distinct regional voice. His long-time love of the Ozarks and its rural mannerisms and language were on display through his column and brought us smiles for some 200 editions of Today's Farmer.
Over the years, Mitch was a radio personality, columnist and author of books. As you learned from his columns, Mitch was probably best known for his work as a member of a band called the Dillards with Rodney and Doug Dillard and Dean Webb. They became the "Darling Boys" on the Andy Griffith Show in the early 1960s-an experience that shaped Mitch's remaining years.
Likewise, Mitch's time as a one-room school teacher in Dent County, Mo., gave him the real-world Ozark experiences that fueled many of the stories he wrote. Without it, his famous radio show, Hickory Holler Time, with its Snake and Tick Market Report and old Zeke Reeferzottum would not have been possible.
Mitch was a chronicler of life. And he told good stories. It has been an honor to share some of them in these pages.