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Reconstruction after 2013 tornado

By Staff | Aug 25, 2014

ROGER WILCOX, LEFT, and his brother, John Wilcox, survey a section of one of the grain bins damaged during the Oct. 4, 2013, tornado at their farm near Rock Branch in Woodbury County.

ROCK BRANCH – Looking across his farmstead to the fields of tall corn, John Wilcox said he’s cautiously hopeful this year’s corn harvest will be a better one than 2013 than the one he his brother, Roger, labored through following the Oct. 4, 2013, tornado.

That storm left them and their neighbors with damaged fields as well as farm buildings. In 1990, a similar storm hit the farm and followed a nearly identical path.

“We’d been expecting probably one of our best crops ever,” he said referring to 2013. “It didn’t happen.

“What could have been 200 bushels per acre were 40.

“It took us what I consider an extra six days to do 120 acres, and we’d get two wagon loads rather than filling the bins.”

THE WILCOX brothers were awarded the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Iowa Environmental Leaders Award. The award was presented during the Iowa State Fair.

The Wilcoxes’ yields averaged between 120 to 140 bpa as they manned the combines assisted by neighbors and others walking alongside or riding along to spot farm building and equipment debris tossed into the fields from their farm site.

“I suspect we’ll still be finding debris this fall,” Wilcox said.

As for this year’s corn yields, the brothers said they’re somewhat uncertain as to what to expect, due to spotty field conditions due to heavy rains and growing season temperature extremes.

“I actually think crops were looking better last year than this,” Wilcox said, explaining the current field trouble spots showing the results of 30 inches of rain between June 14 and July 14.

Additional stress came from intermittent temperature extremes.

He said reassembling their storm-torn farm was a big chore – replacing six grain bins, a machine shed and an additional building.

“It’s been a whirlwind getting to this point,” Wilcox said. “When it hit, we didn’t even have time to think about.

“The first morning after was when I sat down and took it all in.”

The Wilcox brothers said their long days of clean-up and repair has not diminished their love of the land.

“The thing about farming,” John Wilcox said, “is we realize you have to go with what Mother Nature gives you, and you keep going.”

Roger Wilcox described the ongoing repair efforts as a “bolt-by-bolt” process.

“Yes, it’s evident we’ve made progress,” he said, “but it’s put us I’d say about a year behind on some other projects we’d hoped to get done here.”

Besides crop and structure damage, Wilcox said between 16 and 20 terraces had to be repaired.

During the Works Project Administration era, their grandfather, the late Ralph Wilcox, a former longtime Woodbury County supervisor, is believed to have built the first terraces in Woodbury County.

The brothers and their father, Gary Wilcox, have carried on the conservation work.

As a result, the Wilcoxes were among the 2014 recipients of the Iowa Environmental Leaders Award, presented at the Iowa State Fair by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

The award recognizes those taking steps in their farming operations to improve or protect Iowa’s environment and natural resources, while at the same time encouraging other farmers to likewise.

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