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keil peppers Norman Keil heads back to his truck after harvesting peppers on his family's farm in Sylvania.
Norman Keil heads back to his truck after harvesting peppers on his family's farm in Sylvania.
THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Published: Sunday, 8/12/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

TOLEDO MAGAZINE

Drought challenges growers

BY KATIE RAUSCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

As large swaths of the country struggle with an increasingly harsh drought, one small-scale local farm is working through the heat.

Norman Keil, head of a family farm business, said his family has been able to weather the effects of extreme heat and drought by virtue of crop diversity. Mr. Keil’s mother and uncle own the farm and he, his brothers, and a cousin operate it under a separate business called the Four Grandsons of Louis Keil Sr., LLC.

PHOTO GALLERY: Drought challenges local growers

The Keils actively farm about 70 of their 80 acres off of West Central Avenue in Sylvania Township, earning about half their income from farmers’ markets. Because they grow a wide variety of crops, they have been able to absorb the loss of some plants. Their corn was stunted, and all of their red beets have burned from sun exposure. Not all the surviving plants are producing well.

"I’ve got some stuff that looks great, but what looks good doesn’t have any fruit on it," he said.

Despite the estimated loss of 30 percent of his annual yield, Mr. Keil sustained greater losses last season after excessive rain caused two creeks on the farm to flood.

Norman Keil said drought had affected his crops in various ways this year. While some fruit was burned by the sun or failed to develop correctly, he's also lost entire crops. Recent rain combined with irrigation has helped keep other crops from failing, but it wasn't enough to save this pepper. Norman Keil said drought had affected his crops in various ways this year. While some fruit was burned by the sun or failed to develop correctly, he's also lost entire crops. Recent rain combined with irrigation has helped keep other crops from failing, but it wasn't enough to save this pepper.
THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

"I can cope with a drought year better than I can cope with a wet year," he said. The same streams that flooded his fields last season help sustain him through this year’s drought because he uses them to irrigate his crops.

While much of Ohio is categorized by the National Drought Mitigation Center as being under a moderate drought, parts of Lucas and Wood counties were given ratings of severe drought on July 31. This week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said July had the hottest average temperature of any month on record in the contiguous United States since 1895.

Recent bouts of rain have helped, but area farmers already have sustained losses.

"It’s all you can do to survive," Mr. Keil said.

Contact Katie Rausch at: krausch@theblade.com.



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