Remaining Vigilant, Prepared

AgriLife Logo

Aaron Sumrall PhD

Matagorda County

AgriLife Extension Agent –

Agriculture / Natural Resources

Texas A&M AgriLife

 

It is hard to believe that it is already June 1 and halfway through 2020. I am well aware that it is taboo to mention storm season in Matagorda County, but it is something that we need to remain aware of and prepared for in the event that a storm takes aim on the central Texas coast.

The outlook for the 2020 season is indicating a 60% increase in likelihood for an active season with a prediction of 13-19 named storms, 6-10 hurricanes and 3-6 of those reaching major hurricane strength of Cat 3 or higher. This prediction is the 5th consecutive above normal season.

Hurricanes are not the only concern that we need to remine prepared for should something happen, but we are not exempt from other concerns of flooding, fire, tornados, chemical spills and others.

June 1 is a good time to reassess your preparedness should something happen requiring your response. One thing to keep in mind is to make sure all insurance policies are current with all ownings included and flood insurance is included in the policy. Flood policies typically take 30 days to become effective and will not be sold when there is an actively named hurricane. It is also a good practice to take photos of belongings and keep those images on a thumb drive or SD cards and store with insurance policies.

Agriculture producers should conduct accurate herd inventories, equipment inventories, and maybe even take a few pics. Of crops status periodically throughout the growing season. Additionally, if you are an agriculture producer, make sure you /your farm or ranch is registered with FSA. This should be completed prior to a particular storm being named. If you wait until after a storm is named, you may not be eligible for federal assistance following that storm should you be affected.

Continue to gather items, such as copies of driver’s license, social security card, one credit card, possibly birth certificate a copy of a will (if you have one), Cash, evacuation plan , and written plan/ arrangements to care for pets.

Once this is compiled, store the items together and put it in a location that you feel confident will remain above any potential flood level.

Following your preparatory efforts, make sure you call a minimum of three individuals who you trust and inform them of your plan should something happen. That will make it easier to locate you and your family following an event. Once you tell others the cations of your plan- follow it!

None of us want to think about the possibility of having to deal with a storm or other event that would require us to be extensively prepared, but it is a must.

This article is not written to cause any alarm with you or your families, but to remind you of a few things that need to come to mind and be addressed prior to an event. Stay prepared and communicate plan and changes to plans with family members and friends. Texas A&M AgriLife has many more resources that you will find beneficial in making yourself and family ready for an event located at https://texashelp.tamu.edu/

 

The Road Back to Normal

AgriLife Logo

The Road back to Normal

Aaron Sumrall

Matagorda County Agriculture/Natural Resources Agent – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

As I write this, I can tell that something has changed outside. For weeks the traffic on HWY 35 right outside my window has been markedly reduced due to the alterations to our daily routine brought on by COVID19. Traffic is much heavier and, from what I can tell, folks are not in their PJs but work attire with a different purpose to their travel – BACK TO WORK, FINALLY!! The road back to normal following the restrictions set in place for our health will not happen immediately but, depending on the nature of “normal”, may take a while and look completely different following this significant input on the timeline of our lives. Now is really the time to remain patient and recovery from this will happen.

As for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office in Matagorda County, several things that were the norm pre-COVID19 will begin to transition to include new approaches to so many things in an effort to make sure that future potholes to our normal don’t knock the tires off the truck. The services provided to you over the past decades have been tried and true but very few changes have been explored to remain at the tip of the spear when it comes to serving you. Extension is known for the many face-to-face meetings, programs, and interactions covering a myriad of topics, disciplines, and visits and we are not moving away from that but to multiply those efforts with new inclusions.

Available to you now are increased presences on social media. Like it or not, that is where most of you are spending significant time at the end of your fingers. In the past few weeks, the Matagorda County Extension Office has added two more Facebook pages to make a total of four in the areas of Agriculture/Natural Resources, Costal and Marine, 4-H and Youth, and Family and Community Health. These pages are being used now to disseminate information or direct you to the County Extension website where much information is posted and/or archived. In the future the pages will be used more extensively in LIVE events, short videos, and much more. And I though I would never say this but…Find us on Facebook!

The County Extension office website has undergone a serious facelift and injection of attention to make that location much more beneficial to you. The website is a clearinghouse for what is done in the Matagorda County Extension office. There you will find announcements, newsletters, publications, videos, and so much more is being added daily.

During this COVID19 experience, most all of us have been thrust into the multitude of avenues of communication available to us now such as Zoom, WebEx, Microsoft Teams, and a few more. They all have a benefit, and this is where Matagorda County Extension will be introducing new ways to serve you. The available online platforms afford us numerous opportunities to meet without leaving the house. We will be able to interact and have the program experience

without compromising the quality of the education. Please make sure your computer, iPad, and iPhone or android has the ability to connect to the online platforms.

This does not mean -AT ALL – that we will not be doing face-to-face events and programs. We will continue to function and thrive by adding the aforementioned changes to the already practiced face-to-face events and visits. In the coming weeks, you will begin to see video equipment at the in-person events in an effort to stream those events to audiences that had to stay home. The events will be recorded for future viewing as needed. We will continue to send surface newsletters monthly and email newsletters will come out monthly with updates coming daily to weekly. Please give us a call to provide us your email address so we can keep you better informed quicker.

The road back to normal may be winding but we will make it! Stay positive, stay focused, and use common sense.

In closing, it has been very dry in the recent weeks with the livelihoods of many Matagorda County farmers and ranchers depending on the rain. Crops are struggling but the farmers and ranchers are still out there doing all they can so when you get the chance send up and extra prayer!

What Agriculture Means to Matagorda County

AgriLife Logo

What Agriculture Means to Matagorda County

Aaron Sumrall

Matagorda County Extension Agent – Agriculture/Natural Resources

 

Traveling through Bay City passing the Civic Center you will see the sign in front of the facility stating “Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture” possibly leaving some pondering the thought of why agriculture is included. Commerce is the direction and lifeblood of every community and city throughout this great State. In Matagorda County agriculture is just as much of the lifeblood and is the fabric of this beautiful part of the coastal bend and the livelihood of so many calling it home. The connection of agriculture within the County reaches far wider than what we may think as traditional agriculture of cows, sows, and plows.

 

Agriculture in Matagorda County is measured in millions of dollars and thousands of direct and indirect jobs. Crops production within this, one of the original counties in Texas, is attributed to more than $311,600,000 in annual receipts. Crops leading the charge is cotton with an annual contribution of $131, 861,700 followed by Nursery and turf at more than $71,000,000. Other heavy hitters coming from the more than 240,000 acres of Matagorda County crop fields are Grain sorghum at $35.7M, Hay and Forages at $27.5M, and Rice and Corn each hovering at the $17.5M mark, respectively.

 

Matagorda ranks in the top 5 cow/calf producing counties in Texas with a total herd inventory of more that 81,000 head. The numbers compiling this ranking total are 42,000 cows, 32,700 calves, and some 6,300 bulls. The 358,000 pasture and rangeland acres used in cattle production are the driving force behind the $89,756,300 in cattle production. Hunting, fishing, and recreation all each contribute to more than $3M annually with recreation dollars coming to the County valued at $4.2M. Aquaculture comes in as an amazing honorable mention with a $2.8M injection to the County economy.

 

Obviously, all of this can, and does, mean substantial numbers of jobs for Matagorda County and surrounding residents. Crops remain king with being associated with more than 2400 jobs. Livestock follows in direct jobs with 790 and the hunting and recreation realm providing an additional 145 family paychecks. Indirect jobs associated with agriculture in Matagorda County account for more than 1000 additional positions.

 

Agriculture in Matagorda County is a way of life for many and a significant foundation if the economy for the place so many of us call home. As Paul Harvey quoted “…so God made a Farmer”. So the next time you see a tractor moving through town or a load of cows on the far end of a parking lot at a restaurant in the County, just know that is the foundation and the salt of Matagorda County.

What is the New Normal?

AgriLife Logo

 

Aaron Sumrall, PhD

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Matagorda County

County Extension Agent – Agriculture & Natural Resources

I know all of us can very vividly remember the fall and winter of 2018-19 with all the water, mosquitoes, and questions of how the upcoming production year would look. Oh, what a difference a year makes! The year progressed like all years do by presenting situations to what we must adapt. The fall and winter of 2019-20 saw very mild temperatures and rainfall that allowed farming practices to proceed and ranchers not having to feed cattle in an airboat. As the winter progressed, several started to raise questions as to the availability of soil moisture, or the lack thereof, and potential impacts on planting and early germination.

A friend of mine, and very astute farmer, made a comment several months ago that still resonates with me today. While talking to a TV reporter on the challenges we were facing during the excessive rainfall and associated degradation of stored cotton as a result, he said “Farmers and ranchers are and will be eternal optimist.” That short sentence seems to be put to the test more often than we would like for a myriad of reasons and would be easy to travel down the road of pessimism but that is not going to happen.

The conditions we face should not define us but refine us. Presented challenges are nothing new to the farming and ranching community and their families but can, and often do, change with regard to the type of challenge faced. Floods and drought are nothing new to the dedicated farmers and ranchers that work and graze the ground of this great State we call home. We will continue to face such situations from time to time and this should be regarded as normal.

COVID19 has come on scene as an unprecedented challenge and one not to be taken lightly by anyone. Navigation of this virus has and will continue to affect everyone in varying capacities such as immune response, work-life balance, family budgets, social interactions, and so many more. For many, social distancing is a substantial challenge affecting every facet of life. Here is where farmers and ranchers have another reason to count blessings and thank God for the life and opportunity to be so closely connected to the land.

Farmers and ranchers spend endless hours of the day on a tractor and/or horse that the actual day of the week can be easily forgotten. Those hours of daily social distancing are nothing new and allow farmers and ranchers to ponder many topics that come to mind. We all know this to be true because farmers and ranchers are never at a loss when it comes to sharing their thoughts and ideas on most anything. While mulling over whatever comes to mind, it can be easy to let oneself get sidetracked on the challenges faced making the day far less enjoyable. There is an alternative we have to being blindsided by what may be mentally whipping us.

Is there a better way to spend a morning in Matagorda County than on horseback or in a tractor as the sun comes up? While the dew is on the ground and the cows and calves are trying to pair back up after a night’s slumber while you slowly ride through, do you count your blessings? As the tractor rumbles to life and full of diesel while you scan the horizon for the first place to drop the planter or disc, do you thank God you’re in a place that gives you that privilege and freedom to do so? When we ponder the question of the perceptions of what is normal, don’t let what is being presented as a challenge define normal. Normal can, and often is, merely a state of mind. Challenges will come and go but normal is how we will face it.

From time to time I can find the negative bug trying to sneak in to my “normal” and I have to make a conscious decision to not allow it. I consider working for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension a gift and serving you a blessing! Because of such facts, there are some additional things for you to consider. We will get through the challenges we face no matter the origin. Such challenges give us the opportunity to rely on our faith and knowing that this too shall pass whatever “this” may be, and that God is in control, not a virus!

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is navigating through this time with service to Texans being paramount. Current guidelines for stemming COVID19 have curbed face-to-face meetings for a time but also has given us the opportunity to improve on other facets in which to serve Texans. Currently and in the coming days and weeks, you will see a shift in “normal” to the manner in which we serve you. In the immediate future, most will be via technology, websites, and social media. This new “normal” will continue to evolve as we, at some point, put COVID19 guidelines in the past and incorporate a much more multi-faceted approach to serving you by combining multiple platforms of conveyance.

All in agriculture have a deep-seeded strength and resiliency that is tough to match and almost impossible to surpass. So, as you unload the horse or climb on the tractor as the day dawns, count the blessings before the challenges and know that Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is there to help in any and every way we can. However, at any point the cows start talking back to you or the cotton starts smiling and waving, I think you need to call it a day and go home!

Be safe, take care, don’t let challenges define you, and WASH YOUR HANDS!!!