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Crops hard hit by heat

Gary Smith of Wing illustrates the difference in his cantaloupes. | Stephanie Nelson/Star-News

Gary Smith of Wing holds the two cantaloupes out for examination. The difference is more than noticeable.

“This one here,” he said indicating the larger of the two. “It was a little wetter out when it was on the vine.”

“This one here – well, it’ll eat just as good,” he said, gesturing with the smaller of the two.

Smith was one of only three vendors at the Andalusia Power Plant Marketplace Wednesday. He, his son and other family spent the morning selling watermelons, cantaloupe, jellies and another unfortunate victim of the heat – a host of pepper varieties.

Smith’s red bell peppers, normally seen with smooth taut skin, are wrinkled as the summer temperatures pulled the moisture from the fruit.

Normally, the market place is filled with both customers and vendors. At its peak, the market boasted 15 vendors in one day, all selling a variety of produce, plants and homemade goodies.

Neal Dansby, marketplace director, said the heat has all but “dried up everything where it laid.

“If it’s in the field today, it’s going to perish in this heat,” he said.

Dansby said now that it’s August, produce farmers are “in the short rows.”

“As far as the growing season goes, it’s over,” he said. “Which could be a good thing with the way this heat is. A few people plant fall gardens, but not many. We’ve got people coming in now and asking for peas and corn. All that produce is gone. We’ll have a few folks with some peppers and melons, but it’s getting down to the short rows.”

Corn producers could face some issues come fall due to the heat, he said.

“Down South, there are several corn varieties that won’t pollinate if it’s over 90 degrees,” he said. “We’ve had days that are 95, 96, over 100, so we’ll have to see how that plays out.”

However, there is one plant that loves the heat, Dansby said.

“Okra – it loves it. All okra needs to grow is a little bit of rain,” he said. “We’ll have okra from now until the first frost.”

The Power Plant Marketplace will remain open from 7 a.m. until noon on Wednesdays and Saturdays until Aug. 25.

Gary Smith of Wing illustrates the difference in his cantaloupes. | Stephanie Nelson/Star-News