A Thursday evening storm that brought golf-ball-sized hail, heavy rains and whipping winds to parts of Eastern Washington caused significant crop damage.
“We had some fields that look like they’re probably a complete loss,” Fairfield farmer Marci Green said.
Green said she knows the hail storm struck wheat, lentils and garbanzo beans between Fairfield and Rockford. The former president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers said she expects some Whitman County crops experienced damage, too.
Wheat is no match for hail.
“It breaks the heads off and also just beats the heads,” Green said. “Kernels of wheat washed out — shattered out of the head and washed out the field and were in the road.”
Green said she’s never had a hailstorm wreak such severe havoc on her crops.
“This is the worst we’ve had on our farm,” she said, adding that other farmers in the area haven’t been so lucky throughout the years.
Mike Lashaw, who lives in Rockford, also suffered severe damage to his crops Thursday. Lashaw believes he lost 10,000 bushels of wheat in just one field and 5,000 in another.
“Agriculture is always to the whims of nature,” Lashaw said.
Lashaw said that some of his neighbors lost their roofs because of the storm, and that many other farmers had their crops destroyed. Yet on the outskirts of the storm, he said, some crops were unharmed.
The effects of the hailstorm may have been highly localized. Green’s house was 5 miles away from where the hail fell. She heard about the crop damage from her son.
“He called us and said, ‘I hope we have hail insurance, because these fields are just flat around Fairfield,’” Green said.
Insurance will lessen the blow for growers who lost some of their crop. Green said that while insurance helps “pay the bills” it never pays as well as taking a crop to market.
The hailstorm’s timing was particularly cruel for growers. Much of the wheat around Fairfield was days away from harvest.
“It was ripe and ready,” Lashaw said, gesturing to the ruined crops.
Lashaw planned to harvest his crops in three to four days.
“What’s going through our mind is, ‘Shoot, we thought we had a really good crop there,’ “ Green said.