As customers dwindle at the end of the day at Eichelberg Farms, a sign looms over the produce from the barn door, describing the farmer’s hardship this season.
“This has been the most challenging time in 32 years of farming,” reads the sign. “Killer rain in April and May and drought in June and July. Storm damaged fence. Thanks for support.”
The life of the farmer is not easy and, given the affects of the tumultuous weather, this season has been especially burdensome.
“It’s been stressful this year because of the weather,” owner Dwight Eichelberg said. “You can’t control the weather and it’s the biggest factor that affects farming.”
In May, The National Weather Service (NWS) reported that 17 inches of rain fell in the Flint area. By July 18, temperatures rose to 90 degrees with the heat index bringing the temperature to just above 100 degrees. The rain came back in force after the heat wave, as AccuWeather.com said the Flint area received 4.69 inches of rainfall overnight on Wednesday, July 27.
The erratic weather of heavy rain followed by scorching heat has affected farmers across the board, delaying their produce production. Hartland farmers Eric and Patty Roeske have been farming since 2005 and are dealing with customers inquiring about late crops. “We can’t tell people when things will be ready,” said Patty, who was at the Linden farmer’s market on Wednesday. “The rainy season has made things sprout later.”
Another problem that the Roeskes face is the unrealistic expectation of produce year round. Tomatoes have been in demand since May but usually are not ripe until August. Patty said that customers can purchase produce anytime of the year at grocery stores and forget that crops are seasonal.
Aside from the weather, farmers must deal with an abundance of other hardships in their profession. Eichelberg said that being a farmer requires multiple skills including strength, marketing, management and even engineering. “There’s so much equipment, something is always breaking down,” Eichelberg said. His typical day starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 10:30 p.m.
The Roeskes are similar, participating in four farmers’ markets a year in addition to the Hartland 4-H Fair. Patty said the tough manual labor and the business end of being a farmer shaped her kids into hard workers that shoulder great responsibilities. Her youngest son is now attending college to pursue a business degree, while her other son moved to Texas to work on a cattle farm.
Despite the delay in crops and other hardships this season, some farmers aren’t panicking over the situation. Eichelberg is confident that he’ll make a profit overall. The farmer estimated that nearly 600 customers alone visited his farm stand last Sunday.
“You have to have a passion for farming to do it right,” Eichelberg said. “Farming’s a continuing learning experience. I have had the best customers through the year and I want to thank them.”
Area temperatures recorded in July,
as of Friday
80-89 degrees – 17 days
90 and 99 – 12 days
Days of rain – 9
Total rainfall – 5.6 inches