Drought and heat taking toll on farmers markets

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Vendors at farmers’ markets are feeling the heat in drought-stricken southern Wisconsin. Some producers expect a profitable year despite dry ground and little rain, while others aren’t as optimistic.

Once a week, there’s a farmers’ market just off Interstate 90 in La Crosse. Bob Stremcha of Barre Mills has a display with a wide variety of produce from tomatoes to fresh beans. At home, he irrigates his plants. But, Stremcha says he still expects to lose money this year, due mostly to the drought. “Our sweet corn is going to be short, smaller, but we got quite a bit of that. Bugs could be a problem this year, I notice there’s a lot of Japanese beetle and bugs in the corn field… The squash and pumpkins, yeah it’s all hurting. But, the weeds are growing good.”

Some growers are in better position to ride out the drought. Viroqua area grower Victor Reichmann has been selling at farmers’ markets for 18 years. Some of his produce is suffering from the heat and lack of rain, including some of his potatoes and zucchini. But Reichmann says he should be fine, because he grows much of his food indoors: “We’ll have a profitable year because we grow a lot of our cash crops inside, and we do a double crop, we do three months, and we replant and do another three months so we have things in October.”

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The produce itself isn’t the only thing affected by the hot weather. One agriculture expert says the number of visitors to farmers markets is down a bit this year because of the hot and humid weather.

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