On a typical July morning, you would not find 12 George County farmers sitting around talking about their crops. You would, however, find them out harvesting their watermelons, tomatoes, squash and peppers. Unfortunately, this is not a usual July.
“We got a bunch of rain with the tropical depression that came through,” horticulture farmer Mike Courtney said. “Some of us have had as much as 25 inches in three weeks. It’s just devastated our crop.”
For a farmer, too much rain is a bad thing, especially when a crop is so close to harvest.
“This weather has been tough on us this year,” Gadston Croom, another George County horticulture farmer, said. “We’ve had to walk off and leave fields this year.”
Constant rain also means fields cannot be treated for pests with herbicides or pesticides. Acre after acre of fruit and vegetable farms across South Mississippi have become total losses, including Courtney’s 80 acres of watermelons.
“If our customers buy our watermelons, they are taking a chance of losing money because of how low quality they are right now,” he said. “If they were to purchase their normal amount and 25 or 30% of the watermelons were not fit to be resold, they lose all their profit. This type of devastation has a trickle down affect.”
In mid-May, Croom was already harvesting some of his crops. Now, a few weeks later, the unharvested produce is ruined. Croom relies on “you pick” customers to visit his farm this time of year. That is not happening in 2021.
“We’re trying to get in the field now and clean up, so we can get ready for the fall, but we can’t even get in the fields with the tractors now,” Croom said. “It’s a waiting game, and while we are waiting, it keeps on raining.”
Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Region 8 Regional Manager Chris Shivers brought recently farmers together to discuss how MFBF can help.
“It’s rained 29 of the last 35 days down here, so it’s been hard on them,” he said. “We’re just trying to get them a little help to keep them on their feet, keep them producing the crops that we all like, and keep them farming.”