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Residents raising own food to save $$
In June 19-25
By Derek Aaron
Times Journal Reporter

RUSSELL SPRINGS - With much of the Midwest experiencing record flooding and the loss of million of dollars worth of crops in recent weeks, Kentucky farmers and vegetable garden growers including those in this county are looking at how they can help themselves shore up from the loss, according to E. Raymond Thompson, Russell County's extension agent for agriculture.

"I've seen more (vegetable) gardens this year than I've seen since I started working here 25 years ago," he said. "I think people see the higher prices for food in the store, especially fresh produce, and have decided to go back to their roots, so to speak."

He said harvesting one's own vegetables or fruits was believed in the mainstream to be a thing of the past but that it has suddenly became trendy again.

"People just want to grow some of their own food. I've got calls I need to return now to people about their gardens," he said.

Thompson said the more plentiful foods he has seen being planted are potatoes, tomatoes, sweet corn, green beans, different types of melons, cucumbers, radishes, cabbage and asparagus.

Thompson said that the nationwide salmonella scare with tomatoes that has sickened more than 200 people in 23 states, including Kentucky, could have been prevented had certain farmers followed safer agriculture practices.

"Salmonella is not a disease that is usually associated with vegetables," he said.  "Somewhere along the way, someone failed to follow the good agriculture practices we've implemented here in Kentucky," Thomson said.

"It makes me think that it originated in the washwater someplace (used to wash the fruit off)," he said. "It is only logical."

However, Thompson said if anyone feared the plant they have might have a bacterium such as salmonella or E. coli, to wash it in chlorinated water. In April, Thompson's office trained nearly 20 farmers in safe vegetable farming practices and said that more sessions would be held in the coming weeks at the extension office is Russell Springs.

Most of the county's corn acreage has also been planted, according to Thompson. He did say that some silage corn was still being planted but was expected to be in the ground in the coming days.

"We'll need over 1,000 acres of silage corn and maybe a more than that to get us back to normal," he said. He attributed the Midwest floods as the main reason for corn's skyrocketing price.

"Last week, corn sold for $7 a bushel in Kentucky, which is an all-time high price," he said. Those who harvest corn, the nation's most grown crop, could possibly reap a great benefit from this price as many livestock farmers must buy corn feed for their animals and livestock.

In the Lake Cumberland area, including Russell County, corn was $6.48 a bushel last week, he said. The higher priced corn markets were around Louisville, he said.

Wheat prices are also continuing to rise statewide as the nation suffers through what has been termed by many experts as a "developing" food shortage.

Also, a fairly wet spring season here in the Bluegrass held several local farmers back a few days from getting their corn and tobacco crops in the ground.

"We have an old saying that you lose one percent of crop yield a day for every day after May 15 and there were probably several acres that weren't planted until after that," he said. "However, having said that, the cooler weather we had early on may have offset some of that loss."

He said that if rains cooperate in the coming weeks, the loss of local crops would be minimal.

Thompson said he has also seen several local farmers switch from planting corn to planting soybeans as it is a crop with lower input costs and is generally easier to grow than corn.

The United States Department of Agriculture have reported that they are expecting nationwide corn production to drop by 10 percent this year from last year's numbers and its yield is forecast to go down by five bushels per acre from earlier 2008 projections, due, in part, to the Midwest floods which continue to hurt agriculture-producing towns down the Mississippi River.

He said that so far this year, most of the hay farmers he had spoken with were relatively happy with their hay production, thus far.

"I've heard several good reports so I think it is going to turn out to be fairly well," he said.

Thompson said that right now was the perfect time to have hay as it is selling for record high prices as livestock farmers buy it up to help feed their stock, either this year or next.

Thompson said livestock prices have also been on the rise recently as feed costs continue to shoot upward. This, he said, is leaving cattle and livestock farmers in the hole when selling their animals at the stock yard.

But, Thompson said he expects livestock prices to gradually fall as summer marches on as many farmers won't be able to afford the price at their current high prices.
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The Times Journal is a weekly newspaper issued on Thursdays. It was first published on October 13, 1949, by Andrew J. and Terry Norfleet.
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Russell Springs KY 42642
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Russell County News is a weekly newspaper issued on Saturdays, and is mailed free to every address in Russell County, Ky. It was first published on February 1, 1913.
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