As winter seems to drag on and on…

by Pete Hanebutt, NDFB Director of Public Policy

There’s an old and maybe forgotten poem which became a church hymn called In the Bleak Midwinter and at this time of the year the lyrics seem appropriate. While we may be past midwinter on the calendar, we certainly are still enjoying the bleak aspect of our wintery season. The words paint a vivid and stark picture of frosty winds, the ground as hard as iron, and water frozen like stone, with snow on top of snow, on top of snow. For most of us in North Dakota, the hymn sounds as if it came from right here in our back yard, as opposed to its Northern European origin. Bleak and dreary as the first verse might be, the rest of the hymn paints a beautiful picture of the promise fulfilled at Christmas, with angels and shepherds and wisemen in a humble stable.

As winter holds on in the northern plains and we feel like spring will never come, it’s important to keep our perspective of the seasons in their time, and the rejuvenation which spring will ultimately provide. In production agriculture we live within and by the seasons. But our human nature still encourages us to be annoyed as winter drags on.  We’re encouraged, however, by the lengthening days and occasional warmer daytime temperatures. Just a month ago, we were stringing together days and weeks with temperature hovering around zero or just above. I can feel positive when we have a few days a week above freezing.

I look forward to the long-lasting spring thaw when those who choose to be negative start to complain about mud. I’ll also be thankful for the cold this winter has provided when I hear my friends in more southern climates complain about all their bugs. We’ve enjoyed some needed snow cover this winter and I’m thankful for whatever groundwater we’ve gained. Cyclically, I know we have snowy winters, and dry winters and everything in between, and yet over the long haul of a ten or twenty-year average, trends don’t change substantially in North Dakota. Our grandfathers could probably sit around the pot-bellied-stove and complain about the same weather patterns if they chose to, but maybe they had bigger concerns than to worry about something they couldn’t change.

Winter may be cold and bleak, but the promise of spring rejuvenation is not far off now, and I’ll rest on the hope warming trends will be the highlight of our March calendar. 

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