By Terena Bell, Successful Farming
CHRISTIAN COUNTY, KY -- A blizzard in August: That’s the closest gauge David Cansler has for what’s coming. In his 58 years as a farmer, he’s never seen anything like it. “Never before in history and never probably again,” he says, shaking his head from side to side. His sister, Lisa Beth Bell, agrees. “It’s just so hard to figure it out. You have no comparison.”
Like others in Christian County, Kentucky, Cansler and Bell are concerned about how a solar eclipse will impact their farm.
On August 21, 2017, the Great American Eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse exclusive to the United States since 1776. Its path begins in Oregon and ends in South Carolina, cutting a 70-mile-wide band of darkness wherever it goes. Those who don’t live in the path will still be affected: All of North America will see at least a partial eclipse. At the point of greatest eclipse, the world will go completely dark for two minutes and 40 seconds at approximately 1:25 p.m. CDT. And in the center of that darkness you’ll find Orchardale, a farm Cansler and Bell co-own with five family members.
Four miles away, Cansler has 186 acres of his own to worry about. Ask him how a solar eclipse impacts a farm and he’ll say the problem starts with traffic. While the local convention and visitors’ bureau currently forecasts 25,000 to 50,000 guests, Christian County judge/executive Steve Tribble has heard rumors of up to 200,000 for the whole weekend. Either way, you can only get so many people down a two-lane road, which, according to Cansler, means “when that weekend occurs, everything will have to shut down. It’s just going to be swamped with people.”
In West Kentucky tobacco country, late August is cutting season. Inability to get in and out limits how many wagons you can move from field to barn and back, which could leave crops to burn in the fields, a concern county magistrate Mark Wells voiced at a recent town hall. “The loss of work time will be sort of devastating there for a few days if the number of people show up that they’re forecasting,” says Kent Boyd, vice president of Christian County Farm Bureau in Kentucky.
Increased traffic doesn’t just affect tobacco cutting, but other farming matters. “They won’t be able to get the cattle up and down the road to get them to the sales; they won’t be able to truck grain or anything like that,” Cansler says, explaining that two local livestock yards will most likely close eclipse week while tourists trickle in. That’s why Cansler (shown below) compares the event to a blizzard: “They’re just going to have to shut everything down.”