In 1994 I redeveloped a family wheat farm in the Texas
The Panhandle is the rectangular area of Northwest Texas.
Our farm, which is located about 60 miles north of Amarillo, is in Sherman County. The family ranch and my hometown of Gruver (pop. 1172; elev. 3177) are in Hansford County.
We grow wheat, corn, and maize (a.k.a. grain sorgham or milo).
Winter wheat needs 8-9 months to reach maturity.
Mother Nature willing, we sow wheat in the fall, pasture cattle on
green wheat in the winter, and harvest the
golden waves of grain in the summer. Corn
and maize are summer crops; they are sown in spring and harvested in
Average precipitation from rain and snow is about 20 inches per
year. When the weather is dry and/or hot, we irrigate. Hail storms
are not uncommon (especially before wheat harvest), and tornadoes
appear on occasion. To find out if my crops are parched or imperiled,
you can check out the Amarillo
weather maps and forecast.
Our water comes from the Ogallala
Aquifer which runs a few hundred feet below the surface of our
farm. We pump the water out of the ground and to the crops by using
motors powered by natural gas which originates a few thousand feet
below the surface. To use the minimum amount of water as efficiently
as possible, we have installed a center pivot irrigation system.
Specifically, water enters the system at the pivot and is disbursed
by nozzled hoses hanging down from a galvanized metal pivot arm which
is one-half mile long. As the arm rotates about the pivot, it leaves
a characteristic round (or pie wedge) pattern as seen from an
aerial view. Also courtesy of Terry Howell
of the Department of Agriculture you can see the
free end of a sprinkler.
In 1995 drought wiped out most of the dryland wheat, and a late
freeze damaged much of the irrigated wheat. Hail was a problem on
many farms, but our irrigated wheat was spared. The corn had a strong
start, but a protracted heat wave (100°+) hampered growth at a
critical stage. Even so, our yields were above average for the area,
and the market
price was atypically high. (Don't worry, Wheaties eaters: this is
just a drop in the bowl.) In 1996 drought did in the dryland wheat
again. The corn kept us in business. 1997 was another bleak year for
wheat; once again, corn kept us in business. In 1998 and 1999 the
yields were good, but the price was pathetic. Now that the price has
edged up, the yields have gone down. How about some chips and
There are many interesting
things to see and do in the area and state. For example, while I
was vigilantly looking for varmints (as evidenced by prairie dog
doo-doo), I found an arrowhead.