Augusta-area farmers suffer from drought

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Loretta Adderson has watched her profits dry up from the drought and heat this summer.

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Adderson holds a cantaloupe that cracked open in the sun. Produce farms have been more affected by the drought.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Adderson holds a cantaloupe that cracked open in the sun. Produce farms have been more affected by the drought.

The owner of a small organic farm in Keysville, Ga., said her family’s crops of peas, butter beans, kale, melons and
tomatoes have been destroyed. Their corn dried up earlier this year.

She estimates they have lost $2,000 to $3,000 in profits. They have an irrigation system, but the crops were no match for the recent heat, she said.

“The cantaloupes – it rained and then the sun came and it burst those open. Some of the watermelons, too,” Adderson said. “You can drive from Au­gus­ta to Waynesboro, and you can just see the corn, how yellow it is.

“You would see a lot of crops that were affected by the heat.”

Adderson and her husband usually sell their produce at the Augusta State Farmers
Market and Augusta Locally Grown, an online farmers market, but they don’t have much left to sell.

Other local farmers have had their crops destroyed by the drought and extreme heat, reporting average losses of $2,000 to $3,000 in produce sales.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor by the U.S. De­part­ment of Agriculture, the Augusta area has experienced severe to exceptional drought conditions, the highest level possible, said Peyton Sapp, the extension coordinator for Burke County.

Burke County is in a severe drought, but things are worse in Keysville, near the Richmond County line, with an extreme drought rating.

Still, things could be worse, Sapp said.

“We’re have some localized rains that were very timely and kept people from losing all that they had,” he said.

Small farms growing produce are being affected more than larger farms that grow cotton, soybeans and peanuts, which don’t produce all at one time, he said.

Frank Bibbs, who owns a 2-acre farm in Trenton, S.C., said the drought and heat destroyed his squash, okra, watermelons, cayenne and jalapeno peppers, for a loss of $2,000 to $3,000.

“I’ve got a little okra and some tomatoes because I watered them,” Bibbs said. “All the rest of the stuff, the drought killed it.”

Keysville farmer Terry Judge said he doesn’t have an irrigation system because
it’s so expensive. He lost $2,500

in cucumbers, squash, okra,
watermelon and collard greens.

“A lot of stuff just died out in the 100-degree weather,” Judge said.

Alex Kenner, a farmer near Belvedere, said the drought destroyed all of his tomato crops and most of his peas and butter beans.

His squash, cucumbers and peppers were also greatly damaged, meaning about $3,000 in lost profits.

“It’s a large hit,” Judge said. “It’s three-fourths of what I expected to earn this year.”

On Monday, Kenner was at the Augusta State Farmers Market selling items he had purchased from other farmers. He won’t be planting crops in the fall.

“It’s too dry,” Kenner said. “I’m going to skip it and start over again next year in the spring.”

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oldfella
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oldfella 07/18/12 - 08:31 am
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Learn from Arizona

We have to face it - the days of rain in Georgia are gone and likely to not come back. Farmers will have to start irrigating/growing heat resistant crops like they do around Phoenix Arizona and other western areas. Treat Georgia like the desert it's becoming or face the constant threat of crop failure. It's tough being a farmer under the best of conditions!

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