Drought keeps farmers from breaking even

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - South Mississippi farmers said the extreme drought we're in right now has made it almost impossible for them to break even. WLOX meteorologists said since March 30, Biloxi has received 1.3 inches of rain.

Normally over that same time we'd get about 10.5 inches. With few exceptions, it's been a similar story across South Mississippi. Farmers are struggling to find ways for their crops and their livelihoods to survive.

Each week farmers arrive at the Ocean Springs Fresh market to sell their fruits and vegetables.Terri Doyle said the drought makes it hard to grow anything right now at her Hancock County farm.

"Terribly dry," said Terri Doyle, a farmer. "We're having to irrigate every other day and a lot of things are not making the vegetable production because of that. Irrigation is not as good as full time rain so it's making a big difference."

Along with irrigation, farmers said they are using soaker hoses, mulch and other techniques to try to keep their crops hydrated. That equals more time and more expense, but they said unfortunately not a big return.

"I had one field that I didn't even plant and one that hasn't even come up because you just can't keep enough water onto it. It's extremely hard to keep it going,"said Wes Jones, a farmer from Latimer. "It's been hard to break even this year. It's really hard. If you figure your time that you put in."

"We bring what we have but we have less to bring. Less variety and less quantity. A lot of our crops have not made it at all. We're having to replant and start over. That's another problem," Doyle said.

For some growers, it's not the lack of rain that hurts. Since Katie Bachman grows out of containers in her yard, she can keep her plants well watered, but she can't save them from the heat of the sun. Herbs that she would normally sell by the stalk must be separated leaf by leaf leaving her with less crop.

"This is called sun scald,"said Bachman. "Too much sun on a plant that actually loves the sun. Just burning the leaves."

"When it's this bad, almost everything is susceptible. It doesn't really matter anymore. It's been so many months, it doesn't matter," Doyle said

Because of the extent of the drought some farmers said it would take a slow steady rain every few weeks for their farms to reach their full potential.

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