Unusually High Amounts of Rain Hurt Some Local Farmers

By Patrick Keck

September has brought more than twice the usual rainfall to Oxford, soaking fields and leaving some local farmers unable to harvest their crops.

According to The Weather Channel, Oxford averages about 2.8 inches of rain during September. As of Sept. 25, Oxford has received 6.43 inches of rain. The weather is expected to improve this weekend, with temperatures ranging from the high 60s to low 70s, and a low chance of rain.

While all the rain has inconvenienced many people in Oxford, for some local farmers it’s having a direct impact on their livelihoods.

Jennifer Baynes of the Seven Wonders Farms described this month’s rainfall as “damage beyond repair” after rain rotted many of her potatoes and onions.

Baynes originally planned to sell them with turkey for a Thanksgiving package. Now, due to the damage, she will be unable to do so.

“I already should have pulled them out weeks ago,” said Baynes, “but I can’t use my tools with these rotten crops.”

Tropical Storm Gordon brought the first wave of significant showers from Sept. 6 to 8, which led to the cancellation of several outdoor events in Oxford and surrounding areas. Ruth Schaefer, of Schaefer’s Farm Market, said Gordon’s five inches of rain made it impossible to harvest pumpkins that weekend. The rain also damaged Schaefer’s grains and corn stalks.

For Michael Schwab, owner of Schwab Family Farm Market, Tropical Storm Gordon caused a major loss in revenue because no one wanted to shop in the poor weather conditions.

Not all farmers in the region have been hurt by the extra rain. In fact, if the winds don’t blow down the plants in the fields, farmers with large crops of corn and soybeans are likely to have a good year, according to Ben Brown, project manager for the Farm Management Program at Ohio State University. Projections show 88 bushels of corn being harvested per acre, 11 bushels an acre more than last year’s record.

Soybeans harvests also are projected to set a record with 58 bushels per acre, up from the previous record of 54.5 bushels, set in 2016, Brown said.

Gordon was followed soon after by Hurricane Florence. Florence hit North and South Carolina on Sept. 13, a storm that the National Hurricane Center reclassified as a tropical depression once winds dropped below 39 mph.

While southwest Ohio didn’t feel the real fury of these storms, their dissipating rainfall washed through the region.

According to the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio, remnants of Hurricane Florence arrived in the mid-Ohio River Valley late on Sept. 16 with bands of heavy rain and winds.

Cindy Meyer of the Butler County Agriculture Extension Office said farmers were unable to prepare for it.
“At this time of the year, there isn’t a lot you can do,” said Meyer. “You just have to wait it out.”

Schwab said that since crops are mostly dried out in the field at this point in the season, strong winds can knock them down. Corn stalks are especially vulnerable in such conditions.

John Williams, a district conservationist of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), said the impact of the storms really depends on the timing of the harvest and the amount of rain.

“Of course, if it’s wet, flooded, or crops are blown over, it will make it impossible to harvest,” said Williams.

Williams also said that most crops are harvested later in October, so storms coming through Butler County in September slow down that process, but don’t stop it completely.