South MS farmers say drought making crops smaller

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - South Mississippi farmers say they jump up and down with excitement every time a little rain falls which lately hasn't been very much.

WLOX meteorologists say our area is about 18 inches below normal rainfall for the year. In fact, there's been a rain deficit every month. Farmers say the drought is having a big effect on their harvest.

Frances Gillich loves to shop at the Biloxi Farmers Market.

"You can find great produce at a reasonable price, locally grown by the local people," said Biloxi resident Frances Gillich.

However, many local farmers said their fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers are struggling right now because of lack of rain and the extreme heat. Those who don't have irrigation systems say they've been especially hard hit by the drought. Joshua Sullivan said blueberries grown at his neighbor's farm in Saucier are usually much larger.

"The lack of rain made then shrivel up, and then the heat did the same thing," said Sullivan. "It made them to where they would split, and they'd fall off and everything. The little bit of rain we had a few weeks ago made them plump back up, and they got real sweet, quick. We were able to sell a few of them."

Even farmers who do find a way to water their crops said that leads to another problem which is higher expenses.

Linda Koenenn has a farm in the Kiln.

"It takes a lot of water, and our water bill is ridiculous because we have had a severe drought since the day we planted," said Koenenn. "We got rain like two days before we planted. We got a drizzle two days after we planted and nothing until just a couple of weeks ago."

Koenenn added, "Some of the stuff was in really bad shape. We didn't even think it was going to make it because it had no rain."

While the rain showers may be far and few between, the farmers said the customers keep coming.

"There is a high demand here for fresh vegetables, homegrown fresh vegetables," Koenenn said. "It's hard to keep up because even though you have this whole row planted, they didn't all make it like they should."

Some of the farmers at the market are from Southern Alabama and say their area is also suffering from lack of rain. Farmers say cucumbers and watermelons are some of the most difficult crops to grow without high amounts of water.

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.