HOT HARVEST: Produce Farmers Work Through Heat

The first Wednesday Downtown Farmers’ Market of the season was scheduled to take place on the western edge of downtown on August 28th, but heat delayed the opening for a week.

This is the first time organizers had to cancel a Wednesday Market in the event’s three year history.

Farmer Will Hensley says, “The heat, yeah.” While working on his farm, he goes on to say, “We were out here probably 9 to 10 hours. We didn’t stick out here too long. I worked out here until my knees caught on fire.”

Hensley started farming full time four years ago. He says, “It’s something we enjoy. I really love it.”

But, with the wet spring and the dry summer, Mother Nature has made growing a challenge. He says, “Try to get up early in the morning, finish everything. Try to get out of here at a decent time.”

Hensley is up at 4:30 a.m., pruning, weeding and harvesting. His wife and five kids make up the rest of the staff at Hensley Farms in St. Charles. And, the well is working overtime. Hensley says, “We water pretty much seven days a week, anywhere from 4 to 7 hours a day.”

Despite the hot, dry weather, there will still be plenty of good produce available for the 1st Wednesday Downtown Farmers’ Market.” Hensley says, “Zucchini, cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon, sweet corn, green beans, kale, peppers.”

They’ll also have onions, tomatoes and more. The only problem is this year the first mid-week market downtown is delayed. Downtown Farmers’ Market Director Kelly Foss says, “Really, for the safety of our farmers and the safety of our patrons who would support the Farmers’ Market, we decided we just couldn’t have it.”

Organizers say the mid-day hours and lack of shade on 13th Street make a dangerous combination on a hot sunny day downtown. But, it’s possible they’ll extend the Wednesday market through the second week of October. Foss says, “We’re planning on having the 6 week Farmers Market, and really the reasoning for having the late summer and early fall market is because that’s really the peak time for produce in Iowa.”

For Hensley, he’s focused on harvesting quality fruits and vegetables, in the heat of the Iowa summer. He says, “It is a little hotter in the sun. Yes it is.”

The first Wednesday Market will now be September 4th on 13th Street between Grand and Locust. Hours are 10:30 a.m. through 1:30 p.m.

The weather won’t affect Saturday’s Downtown Farmers’ Market. It will still go on from 7 a.m. until 12 p.m. in the Court Avenue District.

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