While the recent lack of rain has created brown, crispy lawns and left residents little choice but to water their gardens, the drought-like conditions have greatly impacted local businesses as well.
Raising free range animals like sheep means a steady diet of grains and grass and frankly, there isn’t much green grass to go around right now, said Dave Turk, owner of Turk Farms in Fenton. That is causing Turk to supplement their diets with hay, which boosts the costs of operating his farm.
“We could use a two to three all-day soaking rain,” said Turk, calling the recent showers and brief thunderstorm activity on July 18 “just a band-aid.”
Just about the first thing Patty Roeske does every morning is check the radar and the weather forecast. The lack of rain has prompted her and husband Eric, owners of Roeske Farms of Hartland, to take action in order to keep their vegetable plants thriving. The couple have been running sprinklers practically 24/7 these days.
Patty Roeske said peppers in particular can take a hit with high heat and no rain, but so far their efforts have worked and the produce is looking good. They have brought freshly-picked green beans, zucchini, summer squash, beets, leeks and patty pan squash to the Fenton Farmers Market recently.
The combination of drought conditions and excessive heat this month has also forced Turk to implement additional safety measures to protect the animals on the farm. He has erected a tent canopy in the sheep pen, for example, that acts as a cooling center. It also keeps the water supply cooler and fresher in the shade.
The heat affects animals just like it does people, he said, as they seek someplace in the shade to lie down.
Among the most important factors for consumers to consider this growing season are harvest times. Seasons for some crops are running differently than the usual schedule due to March’s unseasonably warm weather that caused plants to develop prematurely and the recent lack of rain, said Turk.
He suggests that consumers call their suppliers to check on harvest dates, especially if they are used to taking their vacation time around canning season or are planning a huge cooking event, like preparing stuffed cabbage for a family reunion.
Weather forecasts are predicting slightly cooler temperatures than the 100 degree heat wave, but not necessarily much rain.
That means the professionals at Shoemaker Services, Inc. will continue their efforts to keep lawns green and assist customers with their irrigation needs. Cory Shotton, operations manager for the company, said with little rain to keep grass growing, requests for lawn mowing services have slowed.
Genesee County used a record amount of water during the heat wave, according to the Flint Journal. More than 27.5 million gallons were used on July 7 and 158 gallons were used from July 9 until July 15, the article stated.
Golfers also appreciate green turf and keeping the course lush has been a formidable task lately. Chris White, co-owner of Fenton Farms Golf Club, said the superintendent and staff members are doing a fantastic job. It helps that they have access to a large pond reservoir, which is usually a huge plus during times like these. However, in 10 years White has never seen the pond as low as it is now.
The recent intermittent rain showers did help, he said, especially since there hasn’t been nearly any rain there since the beginning of May.
There are some bright sides to the drought-like conditions. One is that is that fruit is not as big as usual, creating a larger concentration of flavor. The result is smaller, but sweeter fruit, said Turk.
Irrigation work is also up at Shoemaker Services as Shotton said customers want to water their lawns, add new watering zones to their planting beds and repair existing irrigation systems.
“People like a healthy lawn, not crunchy grass,” said Shotton.
And business is brisk at Fenton Farms Golf Club where the ideal summer weather continues to bring golfers out as long as temperatures stay below the extremely hot range.
Just about every year proves to be a juggling act with the weather. Last summer was so wet that Fenton Farms Golf Club invested in drainage to avoid future flooding issues while this season has turned out to be unusually dry.
Turk said every crop has different requirements that it needs.
“Nature has a delicate balance between too much and not enough rain,” he said.