"In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside 24 hours." - Mark Twain
As a farmer, bringing food to life is a dynamic process that relies deeply on the weather. You must eat, sleep, and breathe the rhythmic processes of our atmosphere and hope that Mother Nature will smile on your fields with the blessings of perfectly timed rains and temperatures that are neither too hot or too cold. As you work outside, you quickly realize Twain observed the weather right. It's constantly changing and often in a way that's far from perfect.
We grow food and raise a family on a small, 10-acre mixed-use farm located in the beautiful foothills of the southern Illinois Ozarks and the Shawnee National Forest. It's the area of Illinois where ancient glaciers stopped scraping the terrain into the flat, endless prairies we often associate with the Midwest. Nestled between the Mississippi River to our west and the Ohio River less than a half-mile to our east, our daily weather is often influenced by the major impacts of these two mighty rivers and the heavily forested terrain filled with bluffs, caverns, and creeks. The old saying around here is like one spoken in many places, I'm sure; "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes."
Growing Up a Weather Nerd
My love of growing food has long been intertwined with a tendency to be a weather nerd. My Grandpa gifted me with a set of vintage Golden Guides, which, even as a kid growing up in the 1980s, seemed like they were from some bygone era. The timeless content caught my attention, though, especially the Golden Guide to weather, which I often thumbed through. Growing up in the low deserts of Arizona, I was used to seeing little to no changes in the weather for months on end. I yearned to experience other types of weather printed between those two heavily worn canvas book covers. Illustrations of a tornado driving arrow-like wheat straw into the bark of a tree or a twisty waterspout raining frogs over a maritime metro-area left me with lots of weather wonder. In high school, I was the weatherman for our TV news announcements broadcast daily, and when I started my adult career in broadcast news, I considered heading off to meteorology school.
Life takes you in unexpected directions. After a decade of working in front of the TV cameras and a few years in the realm of corporate communications, my wife and I finally landed our dream of owning a small farm. My hobby weather observations with a cheap, plastic rain gauge stuck to the top of our suburban backyard fence evolved into necessary daily observations with an upgrade to the AcuRite 5-in-1 Weather Station.
Agriculture Weather Station
Our AcuRite 5-in-1 Weather Station has been in operation for about seven years now and has survived countless Midwestern storms that blow through our region a couple of times each year. Our farm weather station has recorded rainfall amounts exceeding 1" in 15-minutes and a fierce Midwestern derecho with straight-line winds with wind speeds topping out at 70 mph. That storm brought down established persimmon trees and tossed our kids' wooden playset 100-feet from where it was anchored. Mobile chicken coops were also blown about, scattering the hens about the farm in what must have been one pretty awesome moment. Our trusty remote weather station rode that storm out on top of our fixed chicken coop and survived to record the details!
Ideal Greenhouse Conditions
Our farm is expanding, and so are our needs for better weather data and weather tracking. Our vegetable crops require at least an inch of water per week to maintain stable growth and an excellent product we can harvest for our farm stand. AcuRite helps us track our weekly rainfall so we can decide when to run the drip irrigation system. We recently added a high tunnel to our farm, a large passively heated greenhouse structure that protects plants from the disease and insects' pressures of growing in an open field. The walls of the structure need to be manually rolled up and down to control the inside temperature, the wireless Outdoor Monitor with Liquid and Soil Temperature Sensor is a great way for me to see what the temperature is without having to walk all the way out to the high tunnel and look at an old fashioned mercury thermometer. We've also expanded our sensors to include a Lightning Detector, which will help monitor when conditions might be unsafe for working out in the field.
The Best Weather Tools for Farming
Continuing our system expansion, we also just added the AcuRite Access™ for remote monitoring, further expanding the capabilities of our 5-in-1 system. With the Access unit, we can now stream our station's data to the internet, allowing us to share our temperature and rain data with the public and be able to monitor our conditions remotely. Using the internet from our smartphone, we can instantly pull up our farm's weather conditions, making crucial weather-related farming decisions that much easier. Plus, sharing our weather station's data with My AcuRite allows us to see historical records and charts from our phone and the web. We also share our data with Weather Underground, both of which allow us to download the historical weather data when needed.
We looked at other competing sensor systems to monitor the farm weather conditions for our crops, but they all seemed to have limitations that didn't exactly make it a perfect fit for our farm. I am so glad AcuRite has invested in building up the capabilities of our trusty 5-in-1 Weather Station and hope they continue to do so for the future because, on our farm, AcuRite products are certainly outstanding in the field.