The drought is affecting the produce that shows up at farmers' markets around the state.
It’s been so dry in South Dakota that when it rained recently, Cody Carper had to see it.
“It rained like the middle of the night. And I heard it rain, just heard it start you know? The first thing I did was get out of bed, popped the garage door open, and watched it rain,” he says.
Carper and his wife Chelsey own Carper Sweet Corn and Produce near Rutland, a town of about 200 people. The farm is in an area suffering a severe drought.
The farm has an extensive garden and four greenhouses. It sells a wide variety of produce including things like onions, tomatoes, and of course, corn.
The Carpers work alongside Cody’s parents, Randy and Leanne, and his brother, Chris, and sister, Carly.
Cody says one crop has been hurt the most by the drought.
“The corn, we’re going to lose maybe some ear size, maybe some yield on that. Especially the sweet corn, the yield is a little bit different. You have a smaller ear, you know, people don’t want to buy it. You have to have a marketable ear is what I call it. Marketable ear is a big nice ear, people don’t like small, little ears of corn,” he says.
The Carpers keep rye between each row of vegetables to protect the plants and hold the moisture in. Usually the rye remains green until August. This year it dried out nearly a month early.
The Carpers use irrigation to salvage some of their crops. Cody says it’s important to produce a quality product.
“You have to have a reputation to sell it. I’ve been working on that for a long time my whole life. It takes a long time to get it and it doesn’t take a long time to ruin it,” he says.
The Falls Park farmers market in Sioux Falls is one of the places the Carper farm sells its products. Chelsey Carper says they’ve been fortunate with the produce they’ve been able to harvest and sell.
“You always kind of wonder at the beginning of the year. You don’t really know how it’s going to go and what things will be like. Do you even plant a garden? Do you try it, not try it? We’ve just been able to keep everything really watered and it’s been very good so far,” she says.
Chelsey loves interacting with the farm’s customers and building relationships with them.
“You get to know your customers. You know their first names, you know what they’re here for, what they like. And it’s just really nice to see them every week. And when a new season starts you comment about, you know, ‘what did you do this winter’ and ‘you made it through,’ so it’s just really fun to get to know everybody.”
Even though it’s been a tough growing season, Cody still finds a way to be thankful.
“Farming is more of a lifestyle than a job. You got to live, breathe, do it every day. You do it 'cause you enjoy it, you do it ‘cause you love it, and I guess that’s something I was brought up with,” he says.
Carper Sweet Corn and Produce sells its produce at seven locations in eastern South Dakota.