Tyler Huerkamp described 2011’s challenges and rewards for Mississippi Farm Country, the magazine of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.

The year was “a rough start, a beautiful finish,” he wrote.

“New Year’s Eve brought a tornado and eight inches of rain. While we were very fortunate and suffered only minor damage, the storm demolished some neighboring farms.”

Another serious outbreak of storms occurred mid-April, spawning another tornado that hit an employee’s home and many surrounding homes and farms. After cleaning up the damage, the Huerkamps began preparations for planting cotton.

“April 27th brought the worst tornado outbreak of our lifetime,” Tyler wrote. In addition to numerous trees in fields, it destroyed a center pivot system that had been damaged in a windstorm two years earlier. The shop was a wreck, and I had to replant corn that was in the tornado’s path.”

Cotton planting got under way, with fairly normal weather for a month; then, June brought drought and “unbearably hot weather.” While cotton hadn’t started blooming and setting bolls, corn was in the pollination stage, and the heat took a toll on yield potential.

“The hot, dry start helped our cotton to develop a very extensive, strong root system,” and with normal irrigation, “the crop was shaping up to be a good one.”

Then, a tropical storm dumped 9 inches of rain on the farm. “But as the sun came out, damage was assessed and, amazingly, turned out to be minimal. The cotton crop was not injured badly, although the storm seemed to inhibit the defoliation process … and the maturing of the cotton seemed to be slowed and boll opening seemed more difficult.”

But as harvest got under way, Tyler wrote, “It was obvious that the drought and heat, sprinkled with a few timely rain showers through the growing season, had been nearly perfect for the crop. Excitement spread through the county at news of record yields being harvested.

“Despite all the trials the year brought, cotton yields were spectacular and we finished the year with record yields on our farm, with some fields averaging over three bales per acre.”