The name of a Fauquier County farmer whose corn crop has been stunted by the Virginia drought was spelled incorrectly in July 11 editions of The Washington Post. The correct name is Calvin Ritchie.
The corn on Calvin Rickey's farm here looks perfect - exactly right for making those pinky-finger-sized corn ears found in mixed Chinese vegetables.
From a distance it is green and topped with gold tassels. Up close the stalks range in height from the knee to the waist, dwarfed to half size by the lact of rain in Fauquier County.
Richey - dubbed Boots by his father for the outsized footware he clomped around in as a child - has been on this 450-acre farm all his life and says this is the worst growing season he can remember. Unless it rains soon, he says, his farming operation could produce no income this year.
His father bough the land about 60 years ago and Richey, 50, inherited it and holds it free and clear. The farm is worth perhaps $675,000 at the $1,500 an acre that land can bring here.
Adding in the $350,000 he has invested in a grain handling operation on one corner of his land and subtracting the roughly $200,000 he owes banks, Richey is close to being a "paper millionaire."
"I could sell it and invest the money and do better than farming," Richey said, "but I love farming." Counting good years and bad, Richey said, he and his wife and six children have lived on a level "like a man making about $20,000 a year."
Richey and his nephew, 30-year-old Robert Rickey, stood a few days ago in the shadow of their grain storage bins and watched a great black thunderstorm pass to the north, dropping enough rain on their land to leave a few marks in the dust.
Another thunderstorm was dropping rain to the south of them.
Robert, a Virginia Polytechnic Institut and State University engineering graduate with a wige and two children, left a weekly pay check and construction work three years ago to farm full time because he wanted to be his own boss.
"You plant and then you just watch it and pray for rain," he said.
Robert farms about 800 acres of rented land for himself. He and one of Richey's sons handle most of the farm work on family land and on contract for other farmers. Richey and his wife handle the grain business.
Robert has spent about $70,000 for such items as seed, fertilizer and pesticides to get his corn where it is now and it may bot be worth harvesting. Without rain soon the corn will have to be cut - ears and all - for silage, which is used for cattle feed. That may yield $50 an acre, and would leave him with a big loss for the second year in a row, because last year a small drought hit the southern end of Fauquier.
Even is he were able to harvest a good crop - 80 bushels of shelled corn an acre - he might lose money because the price of corn has dropped as low as $2.05 a bushel. Wheat is plentiful in the Midwest and abroad and the corn crop looks good for most of the U.S. Corn prices therefore will probably be low regardless of Virginia drought that has caused Governor Mills E. Godwin to declare 16 counties a disaster area.
Good rain from now on might allow Robert to make 50 bushels an acre, worth just over $100 and still a loss by the time he pays the cost of harvesting.
Things were better in 1975 when corn prices were as high as $3.75 a bushel and averaged about $3.50 while yeilds were about 90 bushels to the acre.
That combination would have produced a profit of around $150 an acre or nearly $70,000 on a 450-acre farm, not counting in the farmers's own nlabor or new equipment he might have to buy.
"That's a powerful wide swing," Boots Rickey said, "and now a farmer is swing with so much more money than in the old days. It scares the Sam Hill out of me."
The weather is painful and costly to Boots and Robert Rickey, the worst they've ever seen.
But the weather, they said is an act of fate and there is nothing they can do about it.
What bothers them most is a deep feeling that the public doesn't understand farming.
"People see this equipment, a $42,000 tractor, and the land prices and they think we're rich," Robert said. "We read the Wall Street Journal to try to keep up, but we're not rich."
"I have to gross $150,000 this year to make any money and I don't see the growth out there to do that. I've got a lot of money out there in the ground," he said.
"I go in the Safeway," Boots Richey said, "and look at the food prices and say this is the cheapest stuff I ever saw, people laugh at me. I don't think the consumers appreciate what we do to give them the best and lowest cost food in the world."
"Carter is a fine Christian man and I though him being a farmer would help. But he doesn't appear to be concerned with us," Richey said.
"He's more consumer oriented," Robert said, "I understand that but I don't like it. We're small businessmen and we backed Ford because the Republicans support small business."
Boots Richey said there are two things he would like to see the federal government do - go aggressively after overseas markets and set up an "all-risk" crop insurance program.
"Say we insure for $100 an acre at a cost of $5 an acre and all farmers pay into it. Then if we had a drought or flood or hail, the insurance would cover our main expenses. It would be a self supportin g program, the good areas would support the bad and there are enough Agriculture Department workers with nothing to do to handle the program," he said.
This year Richey expects to lose money on his own corn and hopes to make a small amount on his grain operation if rain comes in time to help late planted corn. He owns his land and can take a bad year.
"I love it and I'll stay with it. We'll stay here if the developers don't run us out," said Richey who is now setting up plans for passing his estate on to his children.
"But we've got a lot of young farmers like Robert - good farmers and good people - working on rented land. They're hurting and it may put them out," he said.
"How would you like to have $100,000 laying out there and no rain. How would you feel?" Richey said.