September rain threatens harvest for local farmers

A late spring and consistent rain through September have combined to put pressure on Eastern Washington crops — and local farmers like Ben Barstow — before harvest.

“There’s frustrations in everyone’s life, but this is really frustrating for farmers to have to sit and wait and wait and wait,” said Barstow.

Barstow has had no choice but to sit and watch rain wreak havoc on his chickpeas this season after a late spring, which pushed back his operations by about ten days. Right now, his garbanzos are sitting at a 13-14% moisture content, while the ideal level sits at 12% — anything above that, and the crops could mold or rot in storage.

“As the days get shorter, we have fewer hours a day where we have low enough humidity to dry it out,” Barstow said.

He’s not the only one waiting for clear, dry days. His winter wheat crop — his moneymaker — needs planting. But before he can do that, he needs to harvest his garbanzos. It’s a seemingly endless cycle that’s completely out of his hands.

“Farmers are kinda crazy that way,” Barstow said. “I mean, who else do you know that works all year without knowing what they’re gonna get paid? We plant the crop, we don’t know how much it’s going to yield, how many bushels it’s going to produce. We don’t know how much we’re gonna have to sell and we don’t know how much we’re gonna be able to sell it for when it gets there.”

Barstow is hoping to plant his winter wheat crop before the second week of October.