Poor weather puts damper on fall harvest

Mike Linn

A stretch of hot and dry weather during the summer had a negative impact on the harvest of produce on area farms.
And too often when moisture did arrive, it came in the form of hail, which in large sizes can wipe out acres of crop land in less than an hour, farmers say.
The poor weather started a domino affect: fewer crops led to fewer sellers at local farmers markets which impacted farming businesses from Milnesand to Tolar.
“We didn’t have as many sellers this year, and the one’s we did have didn’t have as much produce,” said Margie Plummer, the manager of the Portales Farmers Market, which officially ended on Thursday.
Agriculture specialists say summer months are more often than not good for producing rain, and this summer’s dry, stale heat was atypical.
“Typically our rainy months are July and August — if you look at the rainfall the last 100 years — and we just didn’t get it this year,” district conservationist Joe Whitehead said. “It’s been awful. It’s pretty bad right now ag(riculture) wise.”
The hot climate negatively impacted dry-land farmers the most, but Whitehead said irrigation farmers appreciate a good damp spell as well.
“Many irrigation farmers depend on that rain as well, because they just don’t have enough irrigation water for a full crop,” Whitehead said. “They kind of depend on Mother Nature, and when the rain doesn’t come it kind of puts them in a pinch.”
Smokey Ball farms 15 acres of irrigated land almost a mile east of Wal-Mart and was selling green tomatoes instead of bright red ones at the market Thursday afternoon.
Ball blames lack of moisture and a hot summer — which he described as “disaster” — for having to sell green tomatoes. He said the lack of moisture stunted his crop’s maturation.
Even so, Ball said he was pleasantly surprised to make a decent crop considering the poor weather.
“I think we all did pretty good and made a decent crop … made good tomatoes and okra and peppers,” Ball said.
Ball said he put more money into growing his vegetables than he’ll make sales this year.
Karen Stout, manager of Oppliger Farms in Bailey County, Texas, was selling green apples at the Portales Farmers Market Thursday afternoon.
Stout pointed out what looked like minor scars near the stem of her apples, which she said are caused by extreme weather changes, from extremely hot to cool to freezing in a short time frame.
“It would be nice if we had even temperature, but we don’t live in a perfect world,” Stout said.
Even with her constant challenge with Mother Nature, Stout said she still loves her job.
“Where else can you be out in God’s country so often?” Stout said. “You can scream all you want to do in the orchid and nobody will…It’s real good stress relief.”