Severe drought in Hamdpen County having impact on local farmers

Western Mass News, August 20, 2020.  ,

EAST LONGMEADOW, MA (WGGB/WSHM) — While some of us got a little bit of rain last night, it wasn’t enough to move the needle for many farmers, not to mention those of us with brown looking lawns.

In fact, Hampden County is now in what’s considered a severe drought.

We have entered into a new category in Hampden County when it comes to the official drought monitor and it doesn’t look like there’s much help in the forecast.

“It’s really a drought, like nothing I’ve ever seen growing apples,” said Cindy Normandin of East Longmeadow.

Normandin has worked on her family farm since she can remember. She and her husband, Neal, are now the caretakers of the farm, called The Apple Place. Behind the ever-growing farm stand, including a bakery and ice cream shop, sits the apple and peach orchards.

“The apples are definitely going to be smaller this year,” Normandin added.

They will be smaller because there simply hasn’t been any rain, affecting the size of the peaches – which they’re picking right now – and the upcoming apples.

“We have like a mix of trees here. We have the ones that are on the wires, which those have some drip irrigation to them, so those are a little bit less affected…This is an example of a tree that’s been using irrigation. The apples are a nice size. They’re very robust looking,” Normandin noted.

Take a walk up the orchard, however, where there is no irrigation.

“You can see how small these apples are in comparison, so this tree is just trying to survive right now, doesn’t want to give any juice, but there’s a lot of apples on there,” Normandin explained.

The roots of the older trees, in a normal year, act as the tree’s personal irrigation system.

“So the roots are usually down in the water table, so they can access water no problem. If it can’t access water, the tree is going to go into survival mode and not going to be sending any energy into the apples,” Normandin said.

Normandin is not alone in wondering: where is the rain?

“A lot of people have been asking. It certainly seems like this summer has been dryer than normal and, in fact, it has,” said First Warning Meteorologist Don Maher.

Maher said the official drought map just out shows Hampden County elevated to severe. What we need, he said, is a good soaking rain.

What we’re going to get, Maher explained, “As we look at the next seven days, aside from some isolated thunderstorm and shower chances, there’s really not much rain in the forecast over the next seven days.”

Back at The Apple Place, there is one upside.

“One thing that is good with the dry weather is we have no disease, no pressure, no insect pressure really, so in that way, it’s a little easier,” Normandin said.

We are assured, however, that while the apples and peaches may be a bit smaller than usual, the size definitely doesn’t affect the taste

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