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Farmers revel in weather

June 19, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

Donald Houser was so excited about his corn crop this spring that he had his picture taken surrounded by the 48-inch-high lush green stalks at his Hagerstown-area farm.

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For the first time in three years, Houser and other Hagerstown-area farmers had an early growing season to celebrate.

There were no signs of the drought that has plagued farmers for two straight seasons. No late freezes, no major hail or windstorms.

When spring officially ends tonight at 9:49 p.m., weather observers won't have much to report about the season.

Rainfall totals ran slightly above normal, according to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer.

Since the beginning of April, Hagerstown has received 12.07 inches of rain, already surpassing by 1.2 inches the average for April, May and June, according to Keefer.

There was a mini-heat wave in early May, with record-breaking temperatures in the low 90s on May 7 and 8. The average high temperature that month, 77.4 degrees, came in slightly above the normal 74.3 degrees.

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All that was much to the delight of farmers, who are finally able to see the fruits of their labor, said Don Schwartz, University of Maryland Extension Service agent.

"Attitude-wise, it's just amazing," he said.

Houser, who has been farming for 47 years, said he has never seen the corn shoot up as quickly as it did this year.

The corn sprouted five days after he planted it on April 30, instead of the usual week to 10 days. Forty-two days later, on June 12, the stalks were 48 inches high.

"It sure does look like an excellent crop if it keeps on," he said.

While the soil hasn't totally recovered from the drought, local fields can probably withstand dry spells typically found in summer, Schwartz said.

"The ground's still like a sponge that's not really full," he said.

The recent frequent rainfall is actually damaging the barley crop. The ripening heads are getting heavy and falling over, he said.

"Grandpa always said, it's real tough to have a good grain crop and a good corn crop in one year," he said.

Orchards have seen scattered hail damage from storms last month, Schwartz said.

But despite last year's drought, which reduced the number of flowers on the trees, Rinehart Orchards Inc. of Smithsburg is still expecting an 80 percent crop, said owner J.D. Rinehart.

"We were pleasantly surprised," he said.

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