Drought is taking a toll on local crops

Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 7:19 PM EDT
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This year’s drought has reduced production for many farmers. In this week’s County Ag Report, Kathy McCarty speaks with local growers who say lack of rain has had a big impact on crops.

Randy Martin, owner of The King’s Gardener, says spring days in the 90s, followed by nights in the 20s, created confusion for his apple trees, causing them to bud too soon. Pests have also been a factor.

“Most of the blossoms were frozen. The ones that weren’t, have produced apples, but it’s - it’s an economic decision that a grower has to make. Do I spend thousands on chemicals to spray and have a 40 or 50 or 60 percent reduction in income. I made the decision not to spray,” says Randy Martin.

He says what apples he does have aren’t $25 a bushel apples, they’re $6 a bushel cider apples. Because the crop is so small, there won’t be any you-pick apples this year. Sam Blackstone, of Circle B Farms, says the season’s been spotty. Blueberries were light, while apples are decent, depending on variety.

“It’s been dry. We do a lot of irrigation in the garden. We’ve got - most of it looks pretty good. But I mean we’ve been pumping water right around the clock,” says Sam Blackstone.

For farms with limited or no irrigational opportunities, the drought has had a severe impact on production.

“I’m too far from water sources to pump water, don’t want to irrigate. We’ve been farming in Aroostook County since the 1850s, and it’s only been the last few years that are really critical, so I’ll - I’ll go with the flow. I lost my strawberries, I lost my raspberries, and I lost my blueberries. They just dried up and fell off,” says Martin.

Martin says he has a thousand apple trees, that typically produce about 3,000 to 4,000 bushels. He says this year he’ll be shocked if he gets a hundred bushels. Blackstone says many crops will be smaller and more limited this year, with prices likely go up - something he says is all weather-related.

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