La Crosse Tribune: Small farmers struggle with drought

(AP) – Chris Covelli planted 1,000 zucchini seeds on his farm in southern Wisconsin this spring. Only a quarter sprouted in the parched soil. A few weeks later, he planted 1,000 more seeds and doubled his irrigation. This time, nothing came up.

Covelli also lost his broccoli and green beans to the drought that now covers two-thirds of the nation. Under pressure to fill the boxes he delivers weekly to families who buy annual subscriptions of produce, he recently threw in purslane, which he describes as a vitamin-rich, "delicious weed" that tastes like lettuce.

Small fruit and vegetable farmers throughout the Midwest are struggling with unusual heat and a once-in-decades drought. Some have lost crops, while others are paying more to irrigate. Most aren't growing enough to sell profitably to wholesalers, and sales at farmers markets are down. Those with community supported agriculture programs, or CSAs, are looking for ways to keep members happy, or at least satisfied enough that they'll sign up again next year.

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