Farms get creative as drought lingers
The Associated Press July 15, 2012 8:46PM
Updated: July 15, 2012 10:21PM
ANDERSON — Parched conditions across Indiana are leaving not-for-profit farms and community gardens struggling to find water and produce crops they often donate to food pantries or sell to benefit outreach programs.
Excessive heat and the longest dry spell in more than a century in Indianapolis have wilted leaves and forced workers at nonprofit farms to improvise to keep crops watered.
Organizers of food pantries and rescue groups say they’re hoping for rain to alleviate conditions. In the meantime, many nonprofit farms are doing what they can to keep their crops going.
At Harvestland Farm west of Anderson, workers tapped a pond to create an irrigation system. That pond was drained by the end of June.
The farm run by the mental health group Aspire Indiana was forced to replant and hope for rain as the drought took hold.
“We’ve still been able to bring enough to make our farmer’s markets look nice,” said farm foreman Joseph Monroe.
Growing Places Indy is faring better because two of its three urban gardens have in-ground sprinkler systems.
However, “even if they’re alive, they’re not thriving,” executive director Laura Henderson said. “They’re not growing. They’re not producing. Just like in winter, things go dormant. When it gets really hot, they do the same thing.”
Revenue from the group’s produce sales helps support educational outreach. Produce the group doesn’t sell goes to organizations including Second Helpings.
Henderson estimated the organization might see its crop yields fall 10 percent to 20 percent if there is no relief from the heat and lack of rain.
Even if the summer stays dry, officials at Growing Places and Aspire Indiana aren’t worried about the hit to revenue. Produce sales account for less than 10 percent of Growing Places Indy’s budget and generate less than half a percent of the budget at Aspire Indiana.