It might seem logical that out of everything in the grocery store, the produce section would be most affected by a lack of water and intense heat. But no, commercially grown fruits and vegetables have more or less emerged unscathed from the drought.
The reason being most domestically grown produce that’s sold in supermarkets, including sweet corn, is irrigated anyway and so not affected by a lack of rain. Even if there is diminished local supply, retailers can turn to imports to keep stocks up so consumers don’t need to worry about ample fluctuations in price. Small-scale growers that sell at farmer’s markets, on the other hand, have had to raise prices on their harvest. “Our customers are more understanding of increases because you can explain directly why prices have gone up,” says Ross Peterson of Laughing Stalk Farms, an organic vegetable farm in Southeast Missouri.
For Peterson the combination of extreme heat and lack of rain was a potent and devastating mix. “This badly affected the germination of a lot of our crops, especially our salad mix,” says Peterson. “We ended up having to raise our salad prices from $7 a pound up to $8 a pound.” But it wasn’t just wasted seeds that refused to germinate that added to costs at Laughing Stalk. Peterson and his partner had to invest in expensive shade cloth to protect their yield, not to mention the costs of constant irrigation.
Unfortunately, the worst has not yet passed since the drought has damaged fall produce that has yet to be harvested. “Our winter squash and pumpkins were planted in the middle of the summer when the drought had already set in. We even had them on irrigation but they couldn’t take the heat,” says Peterson. “We don’t have any pumpkins, and we’ve lost more than half our yield of squash.”
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