Farmers prepare for fall agrotourism despite September heat

Hyde Farms irrigates corn for corn maze in Greenback.
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MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Heat is stressing crops, drying topsoil and curbing production for East Tennessee farmers in mid-September. Yet, those involved in seasonal agritourism are proceeding, despite the challenges.

Mitchell Hyde started irrigating his corn for the corn maze that opens September 27 in Greenback on Hyde Farms. "Last year we did not have to irrigate our corn. But this year we started irrigating out of a little pond we have here to try to keep our corn continuing to grow for our corn maze," Hyde said. He said the last time he irrigated in early fall was 2016. Despite this, and despite parched soil between the rows of his pumpkin patch, he said the pumpkins will be ready for picking this fall. He regularly irrigates them already. The maze and pumpkin patch are outside a farm store that the Hyde family runs along Highway 411.

At another site in the Loudon County community of Greenback, Maple Lane Farms' General Manager Nick Brown said he has not had to irrigate his corn. But he did replant one small patch that is growing to be on display this fall. That farm also irrigates its other crops like pumpkins. "It's been extremely hot and extremely dry," said Brown. This farm is also planning to open its tourism venue by September 27.

In Blount County, UT Extension Agent John Wilson said this early fall heat is lowering production and stressing livestock. He said the heat is putting stress on pasture for livestock, and that a few producers are nearly at the point of feeding hay early because of this. "Topsoil moisture is continuing to decrease. That coupled with extreme heat is causing adverse conditions on the farm."

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