Inconsistent rainfall marks Chattooga growing season

Inconsistent rainfall marks Chattooga growing season

August 20th, 2011 in News

By Jimmy Espy, Correspondent

Baled hay awaits collection in a field of Gore-Subligna Road in western Chattooga County. Some Chattooga farmers have struggled with growing conditions this year, as rainfall amounts have varied widely across the county. Photo by correspondent Jimmy Espy

SUMMERVILLE, Ga. -- While many Chattooga County farmers have enjoyed an excellent growing season this summer, others have struggled.

The difference has been rainfall.

"It really depends on where you are in the county," said Extension Agent Rebecca Thomas. "The west side of the county hasn't had enough rain, and some other areas have had too much."

The University of Georgia doesn't have weather stations in Chattooga County, but a few miles north in LaFayette, the weather observer recorded 10.85 inches of rain from May 1 to Aug. 17. That's the smallest amount for the period since 2008 and about 6 inches below historic norms.

In 2008, when the LaFayette station recorded only 8.69 inches of rain from May to mid-August, 36 rainy days were recorded. In the same span this year, rain fell on only 32 days.

On Thursday, a stream flow meter on the Chattooga River in Summerville registered "below nomal," as it has since at least Aug. 11.

Thomas said the county's corn and hay crops should be ready for harvesting now, but cotton and soybeans are several months away from harvest.

Corn and hay are important to many county growers, who use both to help feed their livestock.

In a good year, there's often enough left over to sell as well. A bad hay crop can mean growers must buy grain for winter feed. Some cattle producers have said that with grain prices going up, they're more likely to sell off their animals.

Meanwhile, vegetable farmers are still plucking late-summer produce like green beans, peas and tomatoes from their gardens.

Larry Campbell, a farmer in the Welcome Hill area near Trion, said it's been a near-perfect summer for him.

"It's been a beautiful year for crops; it's rained whenever we needed it," said Campbell, who has been farming in Chattooga County since 1993. "I know there are other areas where they've suffered, like over at Gore, but here it's been wonderful."

Campbell is ready to harvest his 10 acres of corn, which he will use for his own table and to feed his cattle. Any corn left over will be sold to a Calhoun, Ga.-based company.

Campbell also has 20 acres of soybeans that "look real good" and hopes to get in a third cutting of hay by late October.

Campbell, who managed large sugar cane and vegetable farms in South Florida for many years, said the toughest thing he has faced this year is "finding the time to do everything I need to do."

Other county farmers haven't been so fortunate, which is why Thomas rates the overall season so far as "about average."

"Because of the way it has rained, we've seen both ends of the spectrum," she said.

The growing season is far from over.

Thomas said that many farmers are getting ready for winter crops, including cabbage, collards, turnips, green onions, cauliflower and broccoli, which can be grown in the fall as well as the spring. Also popular with area farmers are pumpkins and summer squash.

Thomas said the average date for the county's first frost is Oct. 15.

"It's been a little later the last two years, but that should be about when it should happen this year. The winter crops can stand a little frost."

Jimmy Espy is based in Dalton. Contact him at hoodcsa@aol.com.