Farmers across Westport and Little Compton have been watching for rain for months and up until this week, had little reason to be hopeful after week upon week of hot temperatures and blue skies. But …
Farmers across Westport and Little Compton have been watching for rain for months and up until this week, had little reason to be hopeful after week upon week of hot temperatures and blue skies. But with about an inch of rain forecast to fall through Thursday, some are hopeful it'll be enough to help dig them out of what has been a tough, dry season.
"It's been a tough one," said Ray Raposa, who runs Hay Ray's Farm and Feed on Main Road. "Two years ago was probably drier than this year, but it's definitely been a dry one. We haven't had hardly a drop of rain, and very few places have irrigation; maybe some, but it's a very small percentage."
The results have come in the form of smaller and fewer crops nearly across the board.
"Somebody said it's the third driest summer on record," said Andrew Orr, who runs Orr's farm stand on Adamsville Road. "Some things are starting to fade away."
Like many farmers here, Orr relies mainly on Mother Nature to do his watering. Though he farms about 35 acres, only about four are irrigated. For him, the biggest impact has been to the sweet corn crop, his largest crop by far.
"We're way behind schedule," he said.
Apart from having to push the first round of picking back, he doesn't know if he'll have time to plant successive crops, which in a normal year he'd pick right up through the beginning of November. With drought-caused delays, picking in early November might not be possible. Planting new crops has also been problematic, he said, as the seeds won't germinate in the dry soil.
"I don't even have (late) corn planted in the ground yet."
Though the dry weather has been difficult, there are some positives to take away from it," Raposa said last week. The lack of rainfall has led to brown dry fields and as a result, lower hay harvests. Last summer's wet weather led to a bumper hay crop, and many farmers produced more than they needed. For that reason, he said, "the only thing that's going to happen is anyone who has hay left over from last year is going to be able to sell it this year."
Until substantial rain falls, though, farmers will have to resign themselves to lower yields and lower income, and those who love summer produce will have to be patient. One of the most popular farms along the Farm Coast is Young Family Farm in Little Compton, which regularly sells thousands of peaches each summer, along with many other crops. This year, the peach harvest has been lower than normal, but an employee said this past week that they're getting by.
As Raposa said: "Farming is up and down every year anyway. That's just the way it goes."