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Heat, dry weather stress Md. produce stands

Tuesday - 8/7/2012, 12:03pm  ET

The heat and the dry weather are a vicious cycle impacting local produce say farmers. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
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Neal Augenstein,

DENTON, Md. - The peaches look perfect. The cucumbers are firm. The kale is sturdy.

In what is now officially the hottest summer ever recorded in the Northeast, and in the midst of a drought warning for most of Maryland's Eastern Shore, farmers are having to work harder to produce fresh fruits and vegetables to stock stands along Route 404.

And customers are paying for it, and will continue to pay for it.

"We're getting all the heat, and the dry, so it's a vicious circle at this point," says Theresa Schatzschneider with a sigh. She has grown produce with her family at Clayton Farms for 36 years.

She points to sweet corn as an example of crops affected by the summer's near- drought conditions.

"If you notice you'll have an ear that looks beautiful on one side, and you flip it over and there's no kernels," Schatzschneider said.

"Because of the dry weather, it just didn't form," she adds.

She says her farm has relied on its irrigation system, which is resulting in slightly higher prices.

"It's not free. Nothing is free in life today," says Schatzschneider. "And you can only push so much to the consumer."

She says farm staff is beginning its day at 2 in the morning, to accomplish tasks before the continually scorching sun makes working outdoor unsafe.

Schatzschneider is concerned the heat and dry weather may affect the fall crop of broccoli, cauliflower and spinach.

"Now you don't know whether it's going to germinate and produce," Schatzschneider says.

"It's very touch and go."

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