Boonville Farmers Fighting the Drought

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BOONVILLE - The United States is in the midst of its most expansive drought since 1956, but it's not stopping local farmers from adapting to the climate and thriving against the odds. Peach Tree Farm and Bittersweet Junction Maze in Boonville are well-prepared for the Fall 2012 season which began Sept. 22. 

Peach Tree Farm owner Bruce Arnett believes this fall season will be the most profitable he has ever had, and ever will have. 

"I didn't scientifically plan it this way," Arnett said. "It was just a bunch of good luck combined, I guess." 

Arnett expects the Peach Tree Farm pumpkin patches to yield 200,000-300,000 pounds of pumpkins this year. Arnett credits the success to one thing -- the drip irrigation system he put in place three years ago which costs approximately $1,000. 

"It's all about the irrigation," Arnett said. "Pumpkins really don't need a lot of water to prosper, but they need more than the 105-degree heat was willing to give them this summer."

His pumpkin patches stayed moist during the drought because of the irrigation system. Arnett estimates he pumped one million gallons of water into his pumpkin patches through the irrigation system this summer. The water is combined with pumpkin feed and is dispersed through hundreds of feet of hose and valves. 

Peach Tree Farm has more than a dozen pumpkins that weigh more than 200 pounds and may have to sell hundreds pounds of pumpkins wholesale instead of individually to mid-Missouri, something he's never had to do before. 

Combating the drought came in another form for Meribeth Long, ownder of Bittersweet Junction Maze. Her fall maze may look like corn but it's actually sorgum-sudangrass, native to eastern Africa. 

Long decided to plant the sudangrass as opposed to corn as a precaution for a drought in the future. This is the first year her maze will be open. Ironically, the drought she planned ahead for began the same season she planted her maze. 

"The sudangrass can withstand high temperatures with no water and that's why we decided to harvest it," Long said. "We are so happy we did. I drive around and see corn stalks that are really struggling and I feel horrible for those farmers."

The grass stalks at Bittersweet Junction measured 10 feet high the first day of fall. 

Whether it be pumpkin patches or mazes, fall festivities in Boonville will still go on, despite the drought. Both Arnett and Long planned ahead for drought which ultimately lead to successful fall harvests.