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Crossroads farmers' crops feel effects of Hurricane Alex

By JR Ortega
July 6, 2010 at 2:06 a.m.

Tony Koliba from Dacosta only had a few modest bins of vegetables left from his harvest. The recent rains haven't affected farmers like Koliba. However, the extra moisture may prove to be too much of a good thing in the long run for sorghum production.

SORGHUM FARMERS HIT HARD

One commodity still feeling the affects of Hurricane Alex's rain is the sorghum farms.

Leon Clement, a sorghum partner in southeast Victoria, said the seeds exposure to the weather will have tremendous affects in different ways for each farmer.

"I expect some will be significantly hurt. We hate to see that," Clement said. "The rain came at the wrong time and for a prolonged period."

Earlier maturing hybrid sorghum received roughly 100 percent damage on his research farm, he said.

"There's not viable grain left in them," he said.

An average sorghum producer is going to see about 25 to 50 percent sprout damage, he added.

Farmers are being affected from Houston all the way to Corpus Christi, he said.

Any damage reduces the value of the sorghum, which in turn affects each individual farmer financially.

With another tropical disturbance in the Caribbean already eyeing the Gulf Coast, the worst for farmers, in general, may not be over, Clement said.

"If it does, then there's more of a problem," he said about the latest tropical threat. "Farmers can't take that very much."

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Victoria Farmers' Market

WHERE: Dr. Pattie Dodson Public Health Center parking lot; 2805 North Navarro Street

WHEN: Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Jerry Martin leaned against the bed of the truck, sank his teeth into a homegrown fresh cucumber and watched the last of his produce sell at Tuesday's Victoria Farmers Market.

Last week's rain from Hurricane Alex drowned out some of his crop, however with the market closing Saturday, farmers and customers won't be affected business-wise as much of the produce has already sold.

"We needed the rain, but we didn't need this much," said the Mission Valley farmer, who is the farmers market assistant manager. "My field looked like a lake."

The best time for rain is when crops are growing, not when its ready to be picked, he said.

The lack of produce left to sell brought three vendors and several customers to the market Tuesday.

"It's about done. It's the end of the line," Martin said.

The market has decided to cancel its Thursday operation because of the produce shortage and will instead close the year on Saturday, Martin added.

Kathryn Porter, a Victoria resident, usually finds herself heading to the market three times a week.

"I hate to see it close," Porter said, adding that she enjoys the fresh produce she gets to select.

Porter applied some pressure to a tomato at Tony Koliba's stand.

"Did the rain affect the crop?" she asked Koliba.

Some of Koliba's tomatoes were drowned out but other than that, he still had tomatoes to sell, he said.

"It makes it a lot harder," he said about selling produce after a hard rain.

Charmayne McKnight was worried to make her once a month trip for some tomatoes and squash.

"I figured the crops weren't growing," she said.

Like most farmers' market shoppers, McKnight enjoys the fresh vegetables, she said.

The rain had a different effect for vendor Veronica Riehs.

The Mission Valley resident's sweet basil and other plants welcomed the rain.

"It can rain an inch and I'm watering again," she said as she sat under the shaded tent.

The Victoria Farmers' Market will start again sometime in October, Martin said.

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