A Farmers life is not an easy one. Add to that a long and unprecedented drought, and one can find that even the hardiest of people can struggle.
All of this and more can be observed at the local Mendon Farmers Market, where a variety of produce, ranging from tomatoes to free range chicken eggs, are sold. The Farmers Market is quite the “litmus test” on how bad the drought really is. A woman by the name of Linda, who owns Sweet Harvest Farm with her husband based out of Conesus, NY, explained that the drought has severely slowed the ripening of her tomatoes and other produce. Looking at a table full of fresh vegetables, Linda stated that they would have at least double that amount of produce in a normal year.
Linda said that her husband spends at least one hour a day driving to Livonia and back to get water to irrigate their fields. She added that all together, they have to buy and haul roughly 900 gallons of water a day to properly supply their fields and animals. On top of the water cost, they are also paying for a significant amount of fuel to fill up their truck to haul water, which is starting to take an economic toll on the farm.
Most farmers in New York have animals as well as fields they take care of, which mean these animals and livestock can also be negatively affected by the drought that has swept across much of New York State. Not one, but three different farmers said that their chickens are not producing the regular amount of eggs that they usually lay in any given year.
Linda stated that their chickens are laying between 21 and 24 eggs a day, which is about half as much as they would have last year. Surprisingly, Linda said that she has not raised the price on vegetables or her chicken eggs.
“No one likes to have a bad year” she said, adding that she won’t raise prices because she says that “year to year costs end up evening out”. But, as she did point out, it’s all proportional. The more produce one has to sell, the more people will buy, and the less one has to sell, the less people will purchase.
Farming is a livelihood which has always been heavily influenced by the weather. And when a farmer relies on green pastures to supply their animals with food, a drought could be potentially devastating to the animal’s health and the economy of that farm. This is all happening to Debra Snyder, who owns a farm in Bloomfield, NY. She stated that all of her pastures are burnt up, which means they will have to start buying organic hay, which she says is extremely expensive. Debra said she has had to raise the price on all of her ground beef, which has slightly affected sales.
In this oppressive summer heat, even greenhouses have been affected.
In Speaking with Nicole Jones, owner of Windy Acres, a greenhouse farm system in Victor, NY. Jones said that because of the sweltering heat, she has had to water her plants two times a day, which she says is abnormal and time consuming. Nicole also said that greenhouses usually have a lot of waste, but she said it’s even higher this year. She explained that you can’t water your plants too little, or they will die off, and you can’t water your plants too much, or else they overgrow their pots; and in a greenhouse, space is a limited commodity. She said that in all, her plants are dying more frequently and she has less to sell because of it. Nicole did mention though that the herbs she grows, like chives and rosemary, do not mind the heat as much as the other plants.
All in all, this abnormal drought that has swept throughout New York has caused a lot of problems for the local farmers. Vegetables are not ripening, fields are burning up, and animals are struggling to produce. As a community, this is just another test for area farmers, one that they will eventually pass with flying colors. Through interactions with a few of them, they are tough people, who know that working hard and persevering pays off in the end and that they will rebound after tough years like this one, stronger than ever before.