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The 25th anniversary of the drought of 1988

Much to my surprise my parents showed up in our local paper, The Sidney Daily News,  ‘this date in history’ section yesterday.

25 years

June 20, 1988

Under normal conditions, making hay isn’t near the top of the list of Debora Vaubel’s favorite things to do as the wife of a dairy farmer. But this isn’t a normal year, so Mrs. Vaubel says she would love to be out in the field bringing in a bumper crop of hay if only it would rain to make the crop worth harvesting. John and Deboral Vaubel of Botkins are among the many dairy farmers in the Upper Miami Valley who are beginning to feel the squeeze of the drought which is shriveling up silage crops and stifling the growth of hay fields. Vaubel has turned north to Canada for shipments of hay to replenish the supply he needs to feed a herd of 50 milk cows.

While my family laughed when they saw this, because my mom really did hate baling hay when we had milk cows, my mind immediately drifted back to that year. I was only eight-years-old, but 1988 is still vivid in my memory.

I remember the early summer morning when that first truck of hay from Canada  drove into the farm.  It’s still vivid in my mind because the semi that brought those golden bales of forage hit and took down one of our electric lines, which took out the power to our whole farm. So while we finally had hay to feed the dairy cows, we had no electric (this was before we had a generator to run the whole farm) to milk them.

Etched in my mind is the soil.  It was so dry, rock hard and cracked. There were just huge cracks everywhere throughout the fields that surrounded our house.

Most of all I remember state legislators visiting our farm. Like most of my childhood, I was right at my dad’s side during the visit. We went to the east side of the farm, behind the grain bins and next to the farrowing house to show them the corn.  My dad was only in his 20’s and hadn’t even completed his first year of farming completely on his own after the passing of his mother, who he had farmed with, less than a year earlier. My young dad crouched down next to his wilting and dying corn plants, the legislators followed suit across from him and I stood by his side.  I believe it was the local newspaper that captured the moment with a photo. For me it would be a moment I’d never forget.

A photo I made sure to snap of the drought of '12 on July 4, 2012 of my husband and my dad in the corn field next to my parents house.
A photo I made sure to snap of the drought of ’12 on July 4, 2012 of my husband and my dad in the corn field next to my parents house.

This is why last year when so much of Ohio was suffering from drought; I felt it important to document it by taking lots of photos of my family’s crops throughout the growing season. I also believed we couldn’t do enough stories surrounding the subject.

During an interview with a farm wife on a story about the hay shortage last year due to the drought, I asked her how they were going to be able to make it? She broke down crying and said she didn’t know how they would survive.  I took her hand and said, “I understand. More than you know. That’s why I’m doing this story.”

What do you remember about the drought of ’88?

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