East Texas crops parched, farmers praying for more rain

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - By Sara Story - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The heat and lack of rain is drying up the source of income for a group of East Texans. Farmers say Thursday's rainfall wasn't enough to save their crops from one of the driest springs on record. East Texas farmers are worried the drought will have a trickle down effect on consumers.

Beans shriveled on their stems are a sign of the devastation caused by a lack of spring rain. "It's just too dry and too hot. They aren't going to do anything," said David Claiborne, a farmer in Mount Selman.

Claiborne's first bean and corn crop of the year are parched. He said, "Well, we've had probably less than an inch total since we planted these crops this spring, and you are talking about the duration from March to May...You need 4, 5, 6 inches of rain during that time to produce an adequate crop."

The National Weather Service says it was the 4th driest April on record and the 3rd driest May in Tyler. East Texas farmers are feeling it. Waymon Claiborne, an East Texas farmer, said, "The size on the potatoes and on the onions both have been not to the quality as they would be before." John Lowery, another farmer, added, "Very small compared to normal. It's not the quantity or the size."

Regardless of the size, the supply was plentiful at the Tyler Farmers Market. Farmers thank irrigation. "Normally you don't have to [irrigate] this early in the year; it can be costly," said Mildred Walker, a farmer.

The process is pricey, but Lowery says he is not planning on passing the cost on to customers.  "You can't just keep going up on everyone. The farmer is going to take it as long as he possibly can, then he'll have to drop out." Dropping out means dwindling goods for consumers. "The products that they are going to freeze or can or put up, like the peas or beans, that normally East Texas farmers do not irrigate, those are going to be in short supply. Customers need to take advantage of them when they find them this year," said Claiborne.

The Tyler Farmers Market will host a grand opening event on Saturday, June 5. If you want to buy some fresh East Texas produce, head out to the Broadway Square Mall parking lot between 7am and 4pm.

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