As we fly past Labor Day, we quickly leave summer behind as we head toward the arrival of fall.

This summer has been a difficult one for agriculture in many parts of the country. With record droughts in the Midwest and catastrophic wildfires in Colorado along with most of the western states, I look forward to cooler and hopefully wetter times to come.

Drought is a tough challenge to handle when you raise livestock. Your main goal is to raise and manage the grass your livestock need to grow. Without adequate moisture, the grass is limited in its growth, leaving few options for us to provide the feed for our sheep.

We were fortunate enough to have some limited irrigation water early this spring to green up our pastures, but it was short-lived and was no longer available by mid-May, about five weeks earlier than normal.

With careful management, we have been able to keep the sheep moving between our different pastures until the about the middle of August, thanks to the monsoon rains in July. As things continued to dry up, we are now to the point that we are having to feed our barn-stored hay to the ewes and lambs several months earlier than normal usually around Thanksgiving.

Agriculture is one of those activities that is always interesting but rarely normal. With so many variables that we have no control over, it is a continual challenge to stay in the game.

While agriculture is challenging, it also has a great deal of rewards. This is my wife, Pam, and my 32nd year of farming and raising sheep together. This is also the second-toughest year for us, with 2002 being even drier. During that time, we have had many bumps and disasters that have cost us money, time and patience.

We have also had far more times of smiles and adventures as we met new friends and explored the many unique places and activities that our sheep and their wool have taken us.

During the years, we have grown food and fiber for our community and family. It has been hard at times, but we have worked hard to improve the land and the forage that our livestock depends on. I believe that to be successful in agriculture you must have a passion for it in your heart or you will not be able to overcome the many challenges that you will face.

With Pam by my side, we will get through this year, and together we will look forward to what the next year will bring.

Doug Ramsey has farmed in La Plata County for more than 30 years. He can be reached at 385-4375.