Drought Helping Small Farms?

By: Mike McCarthy
By: Mike McCarthy

Knoxville (WVLT) - Rain is on the minds of many us with backyard gardens, but especially for farmers whose livelihood depends on Mother Nature's showers.

However, while large-scale farmers deal with dried up fields, some small-time farmers have planted the seeds for success.

Volunteer TV's Mike McCarthy joins us with how smaller farmers kept from feeling dry.

For some, farming's not a profession. It's a hobby. A way to make some extra cash at the Farmer's Market, and it's those smaller-farmers who've made up for lack of water from the sky with some from the tap.
Thanks to irrigation.

It's late.

"We should've had sweet corn two weeks ago," Farmer Leroy Huff said.

It's small.

"The corn don't grow," Huff said.

But Farmer Leroy Huff still has to pick it.

"We're getting a hundred dozen right now, where we should be getting two hundred dozen," Huff said.

Thanks to a more than a foot rain deficit.

"Right now we're getting blessed with not enough," Huff said.

All this corn should be at least two feet taller than it is now. As for the ears, the saying goes, knee high after the fourth of the July. Well, we're past that, and it's not quite. So when those ears get the cut.

"My machine will just chop it up and leave it on the ground," Huff said.

But Rivendell Farm's more than 30 acres of sweet corn crop could be worse.

"I"m sure we're doing thousands of gallons per day," Huff said.

From an irrigation system turned life support, switched on at least three days a week, but the problem is only certain parts of 1,500 acre farm plug into the life line.

"The river don't go all the way around us, and I sure don't have enough irrigation to water all that," Huff said.

A problem much smaller farmers like Robert Bowman don't share. He grows, among veggies, more than 200 tomato plants.

"Just because I like it," Bowman said.

He's beat the drought.

"Just barely and expensively," Bowman said.

With the help of his greenhouse.

"I ran water to it last year. It seemed awful expensive," Bowman said.

And it nearly tripled his last month's water bill, but each bushel in basket got the extra-needed water.

"I've done pretty well with my tomatoes this year," Bowman said.

All Huff says he can do is pray.

"I send my wife every morning to turn money into the collection plate, but I don't think the preacher's turning it in," Huff said.

Because the sun continues to beat down.

Governor Bredesen has requested federal aid for all 95 counties in Tennessee suffering from the extreme drought conditions. Huff says he doesn't plan on applying for any. He says it costs small farmers hundreds to irrigate all their crops, and it would cost him thousands to expand his system.


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