Farmers Cope With Too Much Rain

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Farmer Richard Vest talked to visitors of the Athens Farmers Market on Wednesday while he sold ripe tomatoes, sweet corn and the rest of the produce he’d brought.

But his piles of produce weren’t as large as usual because of the rain that just keeps coming to the area.

“You can water when it’s dry, but you can’t take out the water when it pours like that,” said Vest, of Vest Berries and Produce. “I’m out about 50 percent of my sweet onion crop.”

Talk at the market was marked with many discussions of the rain and how farmers are doing what they can to sell the crops that survived the storms.

“What a way to make a living, depending on Mother Nature,” Star Hamilton of Shade River Organic Farm told one visitor.

Hamilton said her garlic crop has been damaged by the rains, to the point where she doesn’t think she will be able to sell the garlic at market.

“I might be able to sell it to (local restaurants) if they understand that it’s just the peels that are affected,” Hamilton said. “You just have to peel off the ugly.”

The heavy rains have hammered the area, bringing nearly 4 inches of rain since July 1, according to the Scalia Laboratory for Atmospheric Analysis at Ohio University.

The weather system that is bringing all the rain began forming in the middle of June, and from June 18 to June 30, 2 inches of rain fell.

Neil Cherry’s peaches, plums, grapes and tomatoes have been affected. In the last two to three weeks, Cherry Orchards has seen the consequences of too much water on the crops.

“Luckily we’re on top of a hill so we don’t get a lot of the flooding, but when there is too much water it causes plums and peaches to crack open,” Cherry said. “I’ve probably had to grade out about 20 percent of my crop because of the cracking.”

In the entire month of June, the Athens County area saw 6.6 inches of rain, according to Kyle Clem, associate director at Scalia Lab, bringing the total since June 1 to about 10 inches.

That rain has pooled and flooded farms close to waterways.

“Of course there is flooding in some of the fields,” said Hal Kneen, an agricultural and natural resources educator at the Ohio State University Extension office in Athens. “If the water can be moved within 24-48 hours it might help.”

The effects of the storms are still not completely known, according to Vest, because the fungus that has been washed onto some produce, like tomatoes, hasn’t had a chance to show up on the unpicked crops.

With more rain in the forecast, the farmers are just hoping for the best.

“Last year, the drought was worse,” Cherry said with a laugh. “We’ll probably be wishing for this (rain) later.”