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Growing Food Despite the Drought

Rich Egger

This summer's combination of high temperatures and little precipitation has impacted just about every type of farmer. Nonetheless, some are finding ways to get by.

John Curtis, owner and operator of Barefoot Gardens, said he's dug a deeper well to come up with enough water for his crops. However, he's also had to contend with a problem pump.

“Sometimes I have water, sometimes I don't. When I don't, it really shows quickly,” Curtis said.

He had to conserve water until he deepened the well.

Curtis said he has been gardening for 20 years and has never gone through a summer like this.

“When you have to deliver every drop of water that your plants get, it takes a toll,” Curtis said.

“In the land of the tallgrass prairie where we live we're not used to these extremely dry, hot summers -- and springs and falls and winters -- so we may need to adjust. We may need to have a lot more drip irrigation and we might need to set up some shade systems for certain crops. It's a challenge.”

Curtis said he's been unable to grow certain crops such as corn, which requires quite a bit of water. His broccoli plants are not doing as well as he would like.

On the other hand, some crops are doing quite well this year, including onions and tomatoes.

Curtis credits Barefoot Gardens' organically maintained soil that contains plenty of minerals. He also does quite a bit of mulching and he has utilized drip irrigation, especially in the garden's two hoop houses.

Curtis thinks he will be able to produce fall crops if his water system and well continue to perform.

“Everything depends on water, especially since we're not getting any help from the heavens.”

Barefoot Gardens is a Community Supported Agriculture operation. The garden covers about 2.5 acres near Macomb.

Curtis thinks smaller farms such as his might be better equipped to adapt to changing conditions than larger farms. However, he remains concerned about the climate and its impact on the region.

“If this weather pattern persisted for years, the Midwest is going to become a different landscape altogether. I'm starting to worry about the trees and a lot of the things I normally wouldn't be concerned about,” he said.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.