So far, so good for farmers

By Jaymie Baxley and James Johnson and

May 16, 2014

LUMBERTON — Following a long dry spell, the heavy rainfall that swept through Robeson County on Thursday came as a relief to many area farmers, though some considered it to be a gift that gave too much.

“It was much needed,” said Casey McQueen, of McQueen Family Farms in Pembroke. “The wheat crop needed it and the corn crop definitely needed it. The ground was getting dry and a lot of farmers were waiting for some rain to come through before planting soy beans.”

McQueen, who serves on the Robeson County Drainage Board and the Robeson County Cooperative Extension’s Crop Advisory Committee, has been farming for 14 years.

“I got about 2.50 inches of rain,” he said. “We didn’t get hammered as hard as some of the other farms.”

The rainfall drenched some parts of Robeson County more than others. The Lumberton Municipal Airport reported 3.21 inches of rain, marking the 11th greatest single-day rainfall on record for Robeson County.

Three miles east of the city’s center, an observer for the National Weather Service reported 5.22 inches of rain, marking the third greatest single day rainfall on record, behind Hurricane Hazel, which brought 5.88 inches in October 1954, and Hurricane Floyd, which brought 7.62 inches in September 1999.

While many farmers welcomed the downpour, some felt the spigot opened a bit too wide.

“It was very dry so we needed the rain, but maybe not 5 inches at one time,” said Geraldine Herring, owner of Geraldine’s Peaches and Produce Roadside Market off N.C. 41 in Lumberton. “If we get more rain on top of this, it would probably be too much rain.”

Herring, who has maintained the family farm with her husband Roy Herring for more than 40 years, said it was too early to tell if the rain did any damage to their crops.

“It won’t show up until several days and at that point we should see some sign of damage, such as drowning,” she said. “But I think it is probably going to be OK. It is going to take some time to get it to sink in the ground, but when the sun comes out, we’ll be fine.”

Jimmy Pate, owner of Rowland Farms, said his tobacco received more rain than it could handle.

“We needed the rain, but certainly not as much as we got,” he said. “Too much rain will drown tobacco. We were ditching this morning to get the water out of the low areas. We had more rain than we wanted but honestly, it did more good than harm.”

Heavy rainfall can damage strawberries as standing water causes the fruits to rot and attracts insects, but Sam Kinlaw, the owner Strawberries on Elizabethtown Road in Lumberton, said the rain didn’t hurt his business.

“This is one of the best seasons we’ve had,” he said. “We’ve had cool weather and strawberries don’t like hot weather. The rain isn’t a bother for us because all our strawberries are on risers.”

Billy Powers, manager of Powers Strawberries and Farm Market in Lumberton, also said he wasn’t hurt by the rain.

“It impacted the ripe berries, it makes them kind of soggy, but overall it doesn’t impact the season,” he said. “It was beneficial for the cabbage and corn. Everything else benefits from some rain.”

The forecast calls for mostly sunny weather today, with temperatures in the mid-70s, but there is a 60 percent chance of additional showers on Sunday.