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'I’m about a week away from panicking if we don’t get rain': Concern grows for Northeast Ohio farmers amid drought

Greater Cleveland has gone 19 straight days without rain.

COLUMBIA STATION, Ohio — Farmers throughout Northeast Ohio are seeing the impact of the drought on crops like berries and corn after nearly three weeks of no rain.

The concern for many farmers isn't just this stretch of dry weather, but the fact that it’s happening so early in the season.

“It’s a tricky situation. I’ve never seen it quite this dry, this early,” Eric Ross said. “You really start to worry about how you’re going to handle your season.”

Ross and his family have been growing fruits and vegetables at Red Wagon Farm in Lorain County for decades. They sell what they grow at the store that sits on their Columbia Station property.

“I’m about a week away from panicking if we don’t get rain,” Ross said.

Ross can already see the impact in their most important crop: sweet corn. The browning and folding leaves show the 50 acres of crop is under stress from the lack of rain.

“And when it gets really severe—as you’ll see up here—it just starts to shut down and die,” he said.

About a mile away, Ross has been busy trying to make up for the lack of rain with his 12 acres of strawberries. They’re been growing them at Red Wagon Farm for nearly 50 years.

“Size-wise it’s probably a little less than what I would normally like,” he said while picking a strawberry.

3News reached out to other farms in the region and found at least a couple that have either cut down hours or temporarily closed because they don’t have enough berries to pick due to the drought.

Ross is fortunate enough to have irrigation for his strawberries. It takes more time, energy and money to keep them watered, but, he said, “it’s a necessary evil.”

Still, even with all the money they're investing into their strawberry field, Ross said in recent weeks it doesn’t take long for the dirt to dry up and “can’t replace mother nature.”

“Each time I get a frost, each time I get a bad winter event, each time it goes dry like this, just every bit cuts your profit. And so I really take a lot of care in watering them,” he said.

That’s not the case for his corn. And the difficulty during dry years is he has to watch it.

“And watching corn melt and burn up in your field is really uncomfortable,” he said.

“If we don’t get rain in the next two weeks, almost all of our corn is going to start look like this.”

The longer the stretch of no rain drags on, the bigger the concern. If things don’t turn around, Ross worries he may not have any good corn to pick or sell come July.

Emma Henderson has more from Lake County:

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