Florida Farming Woes

By: Mike Gurspan
By: Mike Gurspan

This week, the University of Florida extension service has recorded isolated rain across the Panhandle. The lack of substantial rainfall continues to create problems for area farmers.

Ralph Ellenburg JR. and his son, Wade, have been growing melons, corn, cotton and several other crops at locations across Holmes and Geneva Counties.

In Westville, it's a tale of woe and a loss of thousands watermelons stunted in growth, dried from near 100-degree heat, and no water.

"We kept hoping, on several occasions we water and hoped for rain to follow. But we wound up pumping two ponds dry. We hope to get about a third of the crop," said Wade.

This week, extension agents have received word of a mixed bag of rainfall. There may be a downpour in Bonifay, but hardly a drop down the road in Caryville.

"There’s hit and miss pockets of showers. Some areas are receiving a little bit of rain. But, 85 to 90-percent of the crops are dry," said Shep Eubanks of Holmes Co. Extension Agent.

Each July, J.W. Haynes brings a crew from southwest, Florida to pick watermelons and ship them to Chicago.

However, the drought will mean fewer panhandle fruit heading to the windy city.

"Dry weather got to them. We had a good crop down south, but not here," said Haynes.

Agricultural officials say there is still time to salvage this year's cotton and peanut crops with consistent rainfall.

With the basic economic law of supply and demand the low production of area produce should mean a better price for the grower when he gets to market.

Many retailers are expected to increase the amount of Mexican and Central American fruit and vegetables to help fill the void on their shelves.

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