LIMA — Bob Barnt spent Wednesday morning engaged in what most area farmers have been doing recently: planting acres of corn as fast as weather permits.And this year, weather permits. With warm, dry days in abundance, farmers have been preparing and seeding their fields with a vengeance.“It's a complete opposite of last year. It couldn't be any more opposite,” Barnt, 63, said later Wednesday as a light rain began to wet the field he'd just sown near Agerter and Kemp roads in Amanda Township. It was only the fourth shower of April — and the previous three added up to less than three-quarters of an inch.By contrast, there was 10 times as much rainfall in April 2011, which kept most farmers out of sloppy fields until June.“Last year was the latest that guys were able to get in and plant corn,” Barnt said. “I didn't start planting until June 2.”It's the same story across the region and Ohio. In its weekly report issued Sunday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated 34 percent of Ohio's 2012 corn crop has been planted, compared with just 1 percent planted by the same date a year earlier. On average, about 8 percent of Ohio's corn is in the ground by then. The report cited nice weather as the driving force behind the early planting.“Temperatures for the state were above normal for the week and precipitation for the state was below normal,” a report summary reads. “Field activities for the week include application of fertilizers and manure, tilling ground, and planting corn and soybeans. In addition, small patches of corn and soybeans left standing in fields from 2011 were harvested.”That part about tilling ground is especially important this spring, Barnt said. While the 2011 corn harvest turned out pretty good despite all that rain and mud, there was a lot of cleanup after a late and messy harvest.“It's been more of a blessing than normal because of the way we had to cut up fields last fall,” he said. “Everybody's spent a lot more time getting their fields leveled up. Normally, I would no-till most of my beans (a technique of planting without plowing), but I've had to work up that ground two and three times to get it leveled up. So has just about everybody else.”A local farmer since 1971, Barnt will have about 275 acres planted in corn, another 385 in soybeans and about 100 in wheat. He considers himself a full-time farmer, even though he's an Amanda Township trustee and performs other small jobs on the side. Not so for many growers, who hold down full-time careers in addition to their field work.Barnt doesn't raise any livestock, but he sympathizes with the farmers who do. Last fall, they couldn't spread accumulated manure on fields too wet to navigate, and by winter the manure was frozen solid. A warm, dry spring enabled them to dispense with the thawing manure before the planting season began.For now, the farmers' big gamble boils down to springtime's other destructive force: frost. With a regional average last-frost date of May 10 or 12, and the 10 days or so it takes for corn seed to emerge, it's a pretty safe bet anything planted in the past week or so won't suffer frost damage.But it's still a gamble, Barnt said — and the prospect of a weekend rain helped hasten the decision for many to plant.“There were some guys that thought it was too early,” he said. “Two years ago, I planted some early and the frost hit it then, and some of the beans I had to replant. And I think kinda what happened is yeah, they're yelling rain, but also everybody decided, well, it's time to go. You look at the calendar and think, yeah, time to go. But usually there's a big rush right before a rain.“In reality, last year looked like a complete disaster, and turned out to be one of the best years,” he said. “Ninety percent of it is Mother Nature or God, whichever way you want to say it. You can do everything right and still look like a fool.”
Tara Cutlip, 21 and pregnant with her second child, was shot and killed Saturday in her Bahama Drive home. Loved ones gather in front of Tara's home to remember her and speak out against domestic violence.