Until recently, scorching heat and dry skies have greeted farmers. The occasional storm cloud and sprinkles have teased the hopes of growers in the area who desperately need rain for their crops.
Not only has the hot weather affected crops this year, but it has also been a problem for vendors at the local farmers markets.
One of the issues vendors face is a lack of business at the farmers markets.
“When it is hot, not as many people want to come out in the heat of the day for shopping,” said Chad Hunter, a vendor at the Barr Street Market. “As a result, we have started delivering to some of our customers.”
While Salomon Farm Park farmers market vendor Amera Platt has also witnessed this trend, not all vendors have experienced a decrease in customers.
Mickieann Suder of Graber Farms participates in local farmers markets in Hicksville, Ohio; Leo-Cedarville; New Haven; Historic West Main Street; Barr Street; and Salomon Farm Park. Suder said the heat hasn't really affected the crowds, and they have done well at the various markets. While some customers just come to check out the markets, she said there are others who come out “rain or shine.”
“You meet a lot of really nice people and make a lot of nice friends,” Suder said. “We really love doing the farmers markets.”
A contributing factor to Suder's sales success has been their choice of produce. Suder said they take produce that won't be affected by the heat once it is harvested.
Renee Sinacola, who runs the Salomon Farm Park market, which is open 5-8 p.m. Wednesdays, said they have had good turnouts. Despite the heat, she said, they still have approximately 500 people come out each Wednesday night to see what vendors have.
“That's a tribute to how delicious the food is — if people are willing to bear through the heat to get their food!” Sinacola said.
Meanwhile, back at the vendors' farms, they battle the immediate effects of the heat and drought. Watering their crops has been an obstacle itself.
Hunter said watering his crops requires an average of nine hours of work per day. Despite the measures many vendors said they have taken, their harvest will not be as plentiful this year. “All plants are under stress, and (we're) seeing smaller yields in the produce crops,” Hunter said.
Platt said she only expects to get half of her crops or less.
Brad Kohlhagen, Adams County agriculture and natural resources extension educator, said this is the most severe drought northeast Indiana has suffered since 1988. He also said this year's lack of water started before summer.
“Our winter was very mild, and what has been unique this year, is we never built up our reserve in terms of water over the winter,” Kohlhagen said. “We were dry in the spring and have been dry ever since.”
Due to the extreme weather, farmers market vendors have had to compensate for crop loss, poor harvest and growing expenses, resulting in a price increase. Hunter said he noticed a 15-20 percent increase this year, and Platt estimated a 10-15 percent increase.
Consumers will not only notice a difference at the local markets. They will also notice a price jump at the grocery store. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday the drought likely will contribute to food prices increasing by 3 percent to 4 percent next year.