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'Curveball After Curveball:' N.H. Farmers' Troubles Swing From Drought to Heavy Rains

via VPR, credit Toby Talbot

Farmers in New Hampshire are working to keep their crops alive after an unusually dry spring followed by three weeks of heavy rain.

Ray Sprague, a field crew manager at Edgewater Farm in Plainfield, said they planned for dry conditions this year since the last two years have been so dry.

Scientists say the warming trend of climate change will increase precipitation overall in the Northeast, but will also bring more extremes and volatility in weather patterns.

"We were super dry most of May and all of June," he said. But when the rains hit in July, "we went from one thing to another. It’s a little hard to switch gears."

Sprague said the farm's fields on the Connecticut River have been draining pretty well, even with all the rain, because the river has been so low. But their other fields, further from the river, are completely saturated. Edgewater Farm has already lost some brassicas and lettuce. As the river gets higher with more rain, it'll be harder for those fields to drain.

“You make plans in the spring. You’re like, the last two years have been so dry. We’ll utilize this wetter, heavier ground. You think you’re doing a stroke of business, planning something out and then you just get curveball after curveball. And so you just kind of roll with it and try and figure out how you’re going to adjust in-season," Sprague said.

The rain also makes it hard to work in the fields, he said. "You would get your tractor stuck."

Even with all the rain in recent weeks, New Hampshire still isn't fully out of the drought.

Parts of Sullivan, Grafton, Carroll, Belknap and Coos counties are experiencing abnormally dry conditions, while parts of Grafton and Coos are in a moderate drought, according to a report released by the U.S. Drought Monitor last week. And the northeast corner of Coos is in a severe drought.

Sprague said that at Edgewater Farm, they aren't seeing any drought conditions and are still trying to deal with the heavy rain.

"You're like, it's gonna stop raining one of these days, then the next thing you know, it's three weeks later, and it's still raining," he said.

Updated: July 27, 2021 at 10:46 AM EDT
This story has been updated to note the heavy rain's connection to climate change.
Jane is a reporter and previously worked as a producer on NHPR’s The Exchange. Beforehand, she worked as a newspaper reporter based in Portland, Maine, where she covered a variety of topics, including local politics and education.
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