I’m in the middle of a pepperidge ranch in southern Kentucky, just outside of Louisville, when a voice rings out over the din.
I’m not a farmer, but I know what the call is supposed to sound like.
“Hey, there’s another storm in the forecast.
We’re expecting to see heavy rain, maybe even a thunderstorm, so I’ve got a bunch of peppers,” the voice says.
It’s not a normal voice, though, as the farm is in the midst of one of the worst drought years in the state’s history.
The pepperidge herd has been reduced by more than half in just a few years.
But the call to arms is something new.
A few weeks before the call, the farmers association announced that they would not renew their contract with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA).
And after the call from the pepperherds, they decided to take the leap of faith and move to another farm, according to a report in the Courier-Journal.
But that decision was met with fierce opposition from some farmers, who say that the move will mean less money for the state and less money to help farmers.
“There are farmers that have no choice but to leave,” said one of those farmers, whose farm is near the Pepperidge Farm, where the call came from.
“They’re in financial trouble, and we’re not going to support them,” he said.
“We don’t need to be in debt to feed these people.”
It’s the kind of story that could easily get out of control if the KDA did not get a deal in place for next season.
The state has been hit hard by the drought, and it’s not just farmers who have lost their crops.
The population has been cut in half in recent years.
And some rural counties, like the one I live in, have seen more than a million people lose their farms over the past few years, according the Courier Journal.
As the drought continues, some farmers have been forced to look for new places to raise their animals.
But not all are happy with the decision.
“I would have loved to have stayed with the farm,” said Robert Riddle, a farmer who runs the Peppercut Farm in the town of Bealeville.
“But I couldn’t do that anymore.
I would have to move.
That’s just not what I want to do.”
It is a common situation across the country, where many farmers are moving to new locations.
“If you have enough water, you can survive, and if you don’t, you’re in big trouble,” said Riddle.
But some people, like John Gail, a retired electrician who lives in the nearby town of Litchfield, Kentucky, say that they don’t mind moving.
“The only way I can survive is if I can get more land to build on,” he told the Courier.
He and his wife, who owns the farm, are moving in to a new home next year.
But there’s a price to pay.
“It’s a really difficult thing to sell this property, to say, ‘Okay, I’m going to move to Litch, and I’m moving to this location,'” said Gail.
“You’ve got to pay a premium to get that land.
It is very, very expensive.”
And while it’s difficult to say for sure whether that price will be as high as some other farms are willing to pay, the price is not cheap.
Gail said he’s looking for a new location in order to save on water and to save money on rent.
“That’s the only way to make it financially viable for me to buy the property, and also the only thing that makes it financially sustainable for me not to have to go through bankruptcy,” he explained.
“So that’s the price that I would go to.”
But not everyone is ready to give up.
“No matter what we do, it’s just going to be a struggle for the rest of the year,” said Michael Zwilling, a farming consultant who lives near the Pepperidge Farm.
“This drought is going to take its toll on the economy.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next year, but we’re going to have a lot of farmers struggling.”
In fact, the average price of a farm in Kentucky has gone up by over $1,000 since 2011, according a study from the Kentucky Farm Bureau.
But if that price increase was driven by a drop in the price of oil, and not because of drought, then farmers might actually be able to save more money, according Zwill.
“In the past, the oil industry has been able to get by on a very, really low base,” he continued.
“With a very high price of gasoline, and a lot more land, I think that could be the way that it’s going forward.”