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Drought Takes Toll on Local Farmers, Ranchers

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Peppers are one food in season -- if the plants have survived the drought.

If you go to one of the many farmers markets in the area this weekend, take a minute to talk with the purveyors about the problems they’re facing because of the drought.

Some, like Bob Mishler of Uncertain Farms in Seguin, have watched acres of plants burn in the merciless sun. He’ll still have his pickled and canned goods for sale at the Legacy on Sunday morning, but the fresh food from his farm is over for a while.

Neither he nor Cora Lamar from Oak Hills Farm in Poteet, who is at the Pearl Farmers Market on Saturdays, have any idea when to start fall planting, either, because of having to water the seeds. Many farmers usually begin their fall crops within the next few weeks, but no break in the weather could mean a lean fall for lovers of fresh food.

While not selling their wares at the farmers markets, wine grape growers and vintners are feeling the effects of the weather, too. For them, the news isn’t all bad, according to Becker Vineyards.They started their harvest early this year, says spokeswoman Nichole Bendele.

“Although we have a drip irrigation system in place, we are in a drought. We started the grape harvest about two weeks early, and will probably be finished by the end of August instead of the second or third week of September,” she says.  Besides Stonewall, we have another vineyard in Ballinger, and a third in Mason and also purchase grapes from growers in the Texas High Plains and West Texas areas.  Our winemaker, Russell Smith, says, that because of the drought the overall quantity is down, but because the grape clusters have such small berries, the wines of 2011 will be deliciously intense.”

Farmers and winegrowers aren’t the only ones hurting. Linda Perez of L&M Grass-fed Beef says she’s been feeding her cattle hay for weeks now because the grass is dead, and the hay is not in abundant supply.

Perez, who is also at the Pearl on Saturdays, recently posted the following on Facebook: “Bought the most beautiful hay imaginable today, but it cost me: $65 in gas, 6 hours driving time, one blow out tire to replace, not to mention the price of the hay and the incredible heat to endure (had to have the heater on high in the truck to keep the engine from over-heating!). But you should have seen the look on the faces of the cows and calves when they finally got to taste it. Priceless.”

The cattle aren’t quite so carefree these days because sometimes she’s able to buy only enough hay for four days.

Of course, food doesn’t just magically land on the table because it’s mealtime. We’re learning that this summer the hard way.


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