DIGHTON, Kan. (AP)--Widowed last year when her husband died unexpectedly at 48, Joy Peck is determined to keep going with the farm that has been in Lyle Peck's family for so many years.
Lyle Peck had devoted all his time to the farm and his efforts to keep it afloat until the late 1990s, when debt and high medical costs pushed him to take a second job with the Lane County Public Works Department.
Then last Dec. 7 Peck was killed by a heart attack, leaving his 44-year-old wife to cope with the crop and cattle-raising operation, as well as raising their daughter Alexis, now 5.
Lyle Peck's grandfather established the farm, located a few miles north of Dighton. Lyle and his family had made their home in the 100-year-old farmhouse until last Labor Day, moving into Dighton when his mother left her house there for a long-term care center.
"He loved the farm," Joy Peck said. "We lost money for years and years, but no matter what, Lyle wanted to stay farming. He wanted to keep the land. I'm going to keep it as long as possible."
It hasn't been easy, but this winter, with the help of family members, she made it through calving season. But hail and the long-running drought devastated her hopes for a decent Wheat crop. Adjusters who visited recently determined it would yield no more than four bushels an acre. Peck figures the insurance money she'll get for the failed crop will leave her with just enough to hire a retired farmer to prepare the ground and seed it for next year's crop.
The drought has persisted in Lane County for five years, and Peck said, "Everything is hurting."
Peck juggles her farm and parenthood responsibilities with her part-time job as a secretary at the Dighton United Methodist Church. She needs that job to pay for health insurance, with the farm income covering expenses.
Custom-harvester Roger Speer, who cuts the Wheat at the Peck farm, said that he's cutting it this year only to keep the volunteer Wheat from getting out of control.
Speer said the weather's devastating impact on crops in the area has left the bank "pretty concerned with a lot of farmers."
"With a lot of farms, this is the fifth year of drought, maybe even sixth," Speer said.
He said that for Peck to make it work will "depend on if it rains or not."
Peck said the drought hurts the cattle-raising operation as well as the wheat. Without rain to improve grazing conditions, she'll face the additional expense of buying supplemental feed.
"The pastures are short--real short," she said. Two weeks ago, the farm got half an inch or rain, but that's not enough to do much good.
Lyle Peck's brother Greg is grateful to his sister-in-law for wanting to keep going with the farm that meant so much to her husband. He said he'll do what he can to help.
"I know she's determined," he said. "But it could be a struggle."