Praying For Rain

By: Jim Freeman
By: Jim Freeman
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Fairview Community, Blount County (WVLT) - Almost ten inches, nine and a third to be exact, that's how far below normal we are for rain this year.

You can see the effect it's having on your pansies, bushes, even your grass.

So you can imagine how serious the situation is for farmers.

Jim freeman spent the day on two local farms doing whatever they can to keep their crops and their livelihood alive.

When you ask which is more precious, Bobby Coning's answer is quicker than a hic-up. "The water is! Because you can buy gas. But you can't buy water. You can't buy it to rain."

Fortunately, Bobby's able to irrigate his crop with pond water. "These seven rows right here will get watered. Then I'll move to the next six rows. Then I'll pull back over on the cantaloupes."

For the moment, all his crops are doing well including the melons. "You see it right there? If they wouldn't be wet, nine out of ten times, that watermelon would drop off."

Bobby's gambling that his tomatoes, sweet corn, potatoes, and the like come out winners. "You're fighting something all the time, bugs, disease, no rain. It's all just a big gamble."

Just down the road from Coning's crop, Mac Pate's been rolling the dairy dice for 58 years. "It's so expensive to irrigate. But we just can't survive without corn silage. It's one of those no-win situations.

Mac brings out the big gun about 12 hours a day to irrigate his corn crop so his cows will have food. "That pump will pump over 600 gallons a minute."

But Mac can't water all his acreage and with it being so dry this early in the growing season, "It looks like it's gonna be a bad one."

As Mac prays for rain everyday, he hopes the prayers spoken under the neighboring steeple also include him.

"I don't know,” Mac says with a nervous laugh. “I don't know. I hope they're praying for us."

Scott Campbell is the pastor of that church that sits on the knob next to Mac’s farm.

He told WVLT that his congregation at Friendship Baptist Church will be praying for rain for Mac and all the other farmers at the next prayer meeting.

But even though it affects the farmers most right now, if we don't see a good amount of rain soon, we're going to all pay the price.

Mac Pate says it sprinkled at his farm Monday night. Just a few miles down the road at Bobby Coning's farm, he says they had a brief, but good rain.

This may be a farmers' problem today, but it'll be a consumers' problem once harvest time rolls around here in a few weeks.

And that problem will more than likely come in the form of higher prices for vegetables, fruits, and dairy products.

As much as commuters are hurt by higher gas prices, so are farmers.

On Mac Pate's dairy farm in Blount County, he's spending a few hundred dollars a day for diesel to pump water to his crops.

Henry Durant's a regular at Coning's Family Farm Market in Fairview and knows higher prices are on the way.

But says he's ready to pay more.

"Basically, his stuff is a good buy. It's good quality products. I'll pay the price to get it,” says Durant.

Other customers at the roadside market also told WVLT that it's worth the price to pay more for fresh fruits and veggies.

Mac Pate, who turns 82 in August, says that it's not at the very critical stage yet.

But that's it long way to harvest.


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