Farmers face unique challenges as drought continues

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A very thirsty and tired goat named Ruth basks in the sun at Attleboro Farms, which is dealing with the effects of an active four month drought. Staff Photo/Adam Bass

By Adam Bass-abass@northstarreporter.com

Adam O’Dwyer has worked at Attleboro farms for seven years, helping grow and harvest a variety of flowers and produce.

This year, however, the 20-year-old acknowledges there’s a big problem that is affecting the farm’s operations—drought.

It’s become the new normal,” O’Dwyer said of the drought. “We have to sit out here and water all day and we have to get people to just sit out here and water the plants two to three times a day.”

In April of this year, Bristol County officially entered a drought, which is when an area or region experiences below-normal precipitation. According to the North American Monsoon and Drought Relief website, the drought has continued to worsen as of this month. North Attleborough entered a heat wave the week of July 18, with temperatures nearing 100 degrees. Cooling centers were opened across town in response to the high heat.

O’Dwyer said caring for the vegetation during a drought is time-consuming. Because of the lack of precipitation, flowers and plants need constant watering and care during the summer months.

On average, Attleboro Farms harvests 70,000 perennials and vegetables a year, but due to dry conditions and lack of water, the harvest has been significantly lower.

For us to not have to spend time watering all day it would have to rain three days out of the week,” O’Dwyer said. “A lot of our bigger plants in the back need rain and they rely on it.”

O’Dwyer is not the only one suffering from the effects of the drought.

The Big Red Barn–a boarding facility for horses located by Route 120–is feeling the pinch as its hay production has been cut in half this year.

Barn Owner Cheryl Walsh and Barn Manager Lynn Houle said there are three cuts of hay per year and while the first cut came earlier than expected, the second has not grown as quickly due to the lack of water.

The second cut is a finer cut as it has more sugar content for the horses,” Walsh said. “This year has been very dry.”

Houle said that a horse eats two to three flakes of hay, which is 2 percent of their body weight. Without additional hay, the horses face a lack of nourishment.

As temperatures rise, more people want to cool off and use water for recreational purposes. Despite the high water demand, there is a limited supply due to the lack of precipitation filling the town wells.

Mark Hollowell, the town’s public works director, is encouraging residents to conserve water when filling pools and watering lawns. He said the town is also under a water restriction where odd-numbered addresses are allowed to water only before 9 a.m. to 5 p.m Tuesdays and even-numbered addresses are allowed only before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. Thursdays.

We’re in a stage two drought which is fairly dry,” he said. “People should limit their water use and fill the pools when the demand is less. Also, let your lawns go brown—it’s not that important to do it before six in the morning and at two in the afternoon it’s more dangerous as the lawns may burn.