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Area farmers feeling effects of dry weather

July 22, 2012
By CHRIS MORRIS - Staff Writer (cmorris@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Last Tuesday's powerful thunderstorm brought a lot of rain, but it wasn't enough to help area farmers who have been feeling the effects of a dry summer.

Ian Ater, who along with Lucas Christenson owns Fledging Crow Vegetables in Keeseville, said his farm, which produces naturally grown vegetables, has missed nearly every rain event in the last threw weeks.

"We were pretty good up until last week, and then we really started to feel the crunch," Ater said. "It adds a lot of hours to your week, too. The added stress for Lucas and myself is we're running irrigation all the time.

"It's tough, I gotta say, but if you have an irrigation source for veggies, this is the exact weather you want," he added. "You can speed plant and there's more control, so most veggie growers are elated. We were elated, but now it's getting to be too much for our system."

Fledging Crow sells its goods to more than 40 wholesale accounts across the North Country, including Nori's Village Market in Saranac Lake and Green Goddess in Lake Placid. Ater said his farm dug an irrigation pond on its property last fall, but it dried up two weeks ago.

"Right now, we use such massive volumes of water to wash our veggies," he said. "We operate off a deep well and it's tough, it's really tough."

Ater said the dry weather hasn't impacted operations too much, but the affects may start to show up in about two weeks. He said if dry conditions persist, the amount of product the farm puts out will drop off by mid-August.

Sara and Dan Burke own Atlas Hoofed It Farm in Sugarbush. Sara said even though her farm specializes in naturally raised beef and pork, the dry weather can have a negative impact.

"Our pastures are more dry than normal," she said.

Sara said she uses a technique called rotational grazing, which keeps her cattle on the move and allows pastures time to recover. She said she's not sure how much longer she can let her cattle graze.

"We'll have to go feed hay, which isn't ideal, and we don't have hay ourselves," Sara said, noting that her farm purchases hay from a farmer in Saranac in Clinton County.

Sara said dry conditions could prevent farmers from bringing in a second cut of hay. She added that her highland cows and draft horses don't prefer the hot, dry weather.

"They're more suited to withstand harsh winters," she said.

But the Burke family has incorporated a lot of wooded areas into its pastures.

"They have a lot of shaded, cool areas to hang around in," Sara said.

Steve Tucker, co-owner of Tucker Farms in Gabriels, said his vegetables "seem to have stopped growing.

"But now that we've got some rain, they've picked up," he said.

Tucker attributed some of the problems farmers are having to the moderate winter.

"The lack of snow left us without a foundation to start the season off correctly," he said. "We knew if we didn't get rain, we'd be in trouble because the reservoir started out half empty."

Ater said he and Christenson also foresaw the dry conditions.

"We read the biodynamic calendar - it's a mix between astrological influences as well as past weather events - and we follow that calendar pretty strictly when it comes to planning, seeding and transplanting," he said. "That calendar predicted this (dry) stretch for the Northeast."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides drought assistance for farmers whose crops are suffering due to the dry weather. Last week, the USDA designated 39 counties in eight states as primary natural disaster areas due to drought conditions.

Here in the North Country, farmers said the situation is tough, but not dire.

"We'll do some rain dances," Tucker joked.

 
 

 

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