As the sky over the Smokey River Valley transitioned from hues of orange into a brilliant display of magenta, there was a fraction of a moment where the heavens mimicked the beauty of the farmland and gave testimony that this too is God’s country. Looking out over the purple majesty of dusk, Brad stood in the fields he has farmed for decades.
This specific piece of land is next to his irrigation ponds and a river that snakes its way across the Smokey River Valley. The water from these sources helps supplement his crops when drought brutally descends upon the land. The water rights he and his neighbors have fought so hard for are vital to his community’s crops during such dry periods. Although his family has invested in water-wise irrigation systems that maximize the efficiency of ground water, any crop needs help when the sky revolts and withholds life from the soil.
In past droughts, cities have teamed up with the sky to draw water away from the land, and in doing so, served a double-dose of hardship upon the farmers of the Smokey River valley. Water rights are tricky. Everyone needs water, especially in times of drought. However, farmers rely upon the wise use of water to produce the grain and fiber that our society depends upon.
Without that water flowing over the croplands, there will be neither food nor fiber. There will be no beautiful and bountiful harvests under the summer sun. There will be no glory to reflect the sky.
Scott Stebner is an agricultural photographer who focuses on creating stunning and dramatic agriculture photos that stand out from the rest of the industry.