Weather, it can be a formidable force and not always a good one for agriculture.
The National Weather Service in Cheyenne, Wyo. now has a team of meteorologists looking to change weather’s impact on agriculture with the “Farming and Ranching Community Outreach Initiative.”
Leading the outreach team is Aviva Braun, lead meteorologist at the NWS in Cheyenne.
Agriculture communities and weather is a passion for Braun, she served in the Peace Corps in South Africa with her husband Justin Ross and got to know the farmers and ranchers, which grew her interest in agriculture even more.
Returning to the United States, Braun and her husband settled in Wyoming.
The quest to help farmers and ranchers through the weather came about after the March Blizzard.
“The idea came from my husband and myself sitting around the dinner table talking about the March Blizzard and the cattle and calf deaths we heard about and saw pictures of, we talked about how we could prevent that and get the word out quickly, so people could plan,” she said.
Braun and her colleagues Gerry Claycomb, lead forecaster at NWS, and Jared Allen, warning coordination meteorologist at NWS, started working and learning about the agriculture community and what producers need to plan for severe weather.
The work became an initiative to help producers with proactive preparedness before, during, and after impactful weather events.
Agriculture producers get weather information from the Farmer’s Almanac to the apps on their smartphones. So, Braun and her colleagues have made their initiative local to better serve farmers.
“First off, we’re learning about this community in general, but we also have graphical forecasts and trends of where the weather is going,” she said. “We hear about what affects you, and care about the aftermath of storms that may have caused damage to your farms or ranches.”
In October, the region experienced two damaging freezes, which impacted the sugar beet crop. To reimburse the farmers, who lost sugar beet yields and crops, the Farm Service Agency needed weather data.
“They reached out to us for reports, so we’ve been able to provide that data so farmers could get reimbursed,” she said. “So, behind the scenes, we’ve been able to help already.”
The initiative is still in the early stages, but Braun said they are working on adding information to the NWS existing pages, specifically tailored to agriculture.
She gave an example of one, where there would be information for producers to go to when it’s calving season for temperatures, winds, and other factors.
“So, that they can see any weather coming and take action to shelter their calves,” Braun said.
Of course, there are some severe weather events, which happen so quickly farmers and ranchers can’t react — devastating ones, which include hail or tornados.
“There’s not too much farmers, and ranchers can do to protect their assets when the weather turns bad in minutes,” she said.
Presenting producers with the weather in graphs, weather stories, and in a variety of media, they hope to allow for better planning.
The “Farming and Ranching Community Outreach Initiative” is a pilot program, right now in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska, but if it proves itself. The initiative could become part of the bigger picture for all agriculturalists across the U.S.