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IT’LL BE BETTER NEXT YEAR

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    A billboard, once used for advertising local businesses, offers a farm for sale near the Oklahoma border with Texas. (Photo by Ashley Gilbertson/VII)
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    A dead cow, killed in a hay baler accident, lays rotting in a dry field in Felt, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ashley Gilbertson/VII)
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    The Bartlett Grain Company lies abandone and neglected in Boise City, Okla. on July 30, 2013.
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    Scott Murdock walks in a dust storm on drought stricken lands on his farm near Felt, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ed Kashi/VII)
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    Youngsters meet for bible study at the Felt United Methodist Church. (Photo by Ed Kashi/VII)
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    Casey Murdoch, 43, attends church in Felt, Oklahoma, where he asked fellow worshipers to pray for rain. (Photo by Ashley Gilbertson/VII)
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    Manny Encinias, 39, a beef cattle specialist with New Mexico State University, takes a break with his wife Hayley, 37, and daughters Mia, 9, and Elia, 6, on their family farm in Clayton, New Mexico. (Photo by Ed Kashi/VII)
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    Drilling for water in Felt, Oklahoma. Due to the drought, the over-drilling for water is impacting the Oglala Aquifer levels. (Photo by Ed Kashi/VII)
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    Water is drilled in Felt, Oklahoma on July 28, 2013. (Photo by Ashley Gilbertson/VII)
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    Storm clouds converge over a wheat field in Felt, July 2013. (Photo by Ed Kashi/VII)
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    A priest looks to the sky to pray for rain in El Campo, Colorado. (Photo by Ed Kashi/VII)
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    Casey Murdoch, sitting in his yard, looks at the clouds and hopes for rain. (Photo by Ashley Gilbertson/VII)
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    Elia Encinias, 6, leads a young show calf across the pasture on their family farm in Clayton, New Mexico. (Photo by Ed Kashi/VII)
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    Casey Murdock, 43, drives alongside his horse to his farm in Felt, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ed Kashi/VII)
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    Casey Murdock's brother and mother work together with his son Cash to herd his cows from the pasture to a barn. (Photo by Ed Kashi/VII)
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    Casey Murdock herds his cattle from one field to another in an attempt to find adequate grass for the cows. (Photo by Ed Kashi/VII)
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    Cash Murdock herds cows on horseback from the pasture to the barn at his farm in Felt, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ashley Gilbertson/VII)
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    Roy Young, on horseback, moves a cow that just gave birth to a pen in the drought-stricken landscape of Cimmaron County, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ashley Gilbertson/VII)
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    Casey Murdock receives help branding his cows. (Photo by Ed Kashi/VII)
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    Casey Murdock advises his son on moving cattle on their farm in Felt, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ashley Gilbertson/VII)
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    Casey Murdock's cows are herded into the pen on his farm. (Photo by Ed Kashi/VII)
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    Rancher's view livestock for sale at the Five States Livestock Auction in Clayton, New Mexico. (Photo by Ashley Gilbertson/VII)
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    A rancher views livestock for sale at the Five States Livestock Auction. (Photo by Ed Kashi/VII)
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    Casey Murdoch, 43, of Felt, near Boise City, Oklahoma on July 26, 2013. Lloyd Coble, 43, in Boise City, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ashley Gilbertson / VII Photo)
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    Casey and Cash Murdock at home in Felt, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ashley Gilbertson/VII)
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    Cattle rancher Casey Murdock, 43, surveys the spot where one of photographer Arthur Rothsein's famous Dust Bowl images was taken in the 1930s near Felt, Oklahoma. Though irrigated, the location is experiencing its ninth straight year of drought. (Photo by Ed Kashi/VII)
It’ll Be Better Next Year

By Ashley Gilbertson and Ed Kashi

Cimarron County, a farming and ranching community of 2,500 people on the tip of the Oklahoma panhandle, was the epicenter of the 1930s Dust Bowl. Today, Cimarron has become the epicenter of another drought, this one regarded as the most severe in fifty years, and one that has affected 80 percent of agricultural lands in the U.S.

The extreme conditions currently being experienced in Oklahoma affect an area as large as that of the dust bowl crisis 80 years ago, but due to improved farming techniques and the ability to tap into the Oglalla Aquifer to keep grazing and ranch lands irrigated, today’s farmers and ranchers are facing a very different situation. Still, there are potentially catastrophic economic ramifications that could ultimately impact the cost of our food. Both FEMA and the National Weather Service are projecting that the drought will be the most costly and
damaging in U.S. history.

This story looks at how the current drought is impacting folks on a personal and economic level, by telling the story of Casey Murdock—a 43-year-old rancher whose father, grandfather and great grandfather ranched before him. Through an intimate look at one small community at the heart of an ongoing natural disaster, this short film hopes to raise awareness of the current drought and how people are coping with it.

Together, Ed Kashi and Ashley Gilbertson travelled to Cimarron Country in late July and early August 2013, spending nine days with this small community. They captured audio interviews and created video and still images. Their aim is to profile a slice of the community—sharing the perspectives of people involved in ranching and farming for generations in the area, including one who is related to a subject in one of photographer Arthur Rothstein’s famous photographs made for the Farm Security Administration during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

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