Murray • Triple-digit temperatures may have ruined corn crops in other parts of the country, but produce farmers in Utah are getting bumper crops of heat-loving fruits and vegetables everything from peaches to peppers thanks to the warm weather and the availability of irrigation water.
"Last year it was wet and cool, which put the crops at least two weeks behind," explained Randy Lemon, of Grammy's Farm in South Willard. "This year, because it's hot and dry, everything is at least two weeks ahead."
On Sunday, at the Wasatch Front Farmers Market at Wheeler Farm, Lemon and other growers were flush with peaches, nectarines, beets, eggplant, Swiss chard and peppers.
"The heat hasn't had any adverse effect at all," said Mele Tuaone, of Mololo Gardens in Davis County. "Even my sweet corn is doing great."
These farmers can thank their forefathers, who developed a system of canals and reservoirs to help capture enough water in wet years so they could still irrigate in dry times.
"That system has really saved us," said Weston Jenson, of Urban's Farm in South Jordan. He said the water being used this summer is what remains from the wet winter of 2010-11.
It's a different story in other parts of the country where the drought has damaged a large part of the corn grown as cattle feed. Those crops are dry farmed, relying on Mother Nature to provide enough rainwater for successful growing. (Sweet corn that's eaten off the cob is grown differently and is not as vulnerable to drought conditions.)
The lack of feed corn is expected to affect the nation's food prices. As soon as September, consumers could see higher prices for milk and meat products.
Utah cattle farmers also are feeling the effects of last year's mild winter. Much of the pasture and range land where the animals graze has dried up for lack of water. About 45 percent of the pasture and range land in Utah is considered poor or very poor, according to the "Crop Progress" report published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Farmers at the local markets say not every vegetable crop is surviving the heat. Many tender herbs like basil and cilantro have "bolted" and turned to seed.
The tomato crop is a getting mixed results. Some farmers say the blossoms on their plants got too hot and fell off before they could fruit; others say the heat has actually increase the size of the fruit.
One thing that is prolific in the heat pest and weeds
"They're doing really well," said Jack Wilbur, of 3 Squares Produce in Bountiful. Because of the mild winter, "they survived more than usual."