Drought woes continue for area farmers - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Drought woes continue for area farmers

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

When your livelihood depends on the weather, an extreme drought could have a profound affect on your success. Local farmers are running into issues due to the lack of rain in the Tennessee Valley. One even had to sell his cows. For Harden Hay Farm, this is the worst season in its 40-year history.

"I'm out of the cow business and I'm out of the hay business as of right now, until something happens," says David Harden, co-owner of Harden Hay Farm in Villanow, Georgia.

Mother Nature hasn't been nice to him and his wife, Sherry. It's now mid-August and their farm has had less then two inches of rain in the past two months.

"In 2007 it got dry, but toward the end [of the season] it started raining and we got a couple of cuttings," recalls Harden. "But this year's been the worst."

His three types of grass often grow waist-high, but now they only reach Harden's ankles in the good patches. Tens of thousands of hay bales filled the barns last year. This year they're virtually empty.

By this time Harden's usually on his third or fourth cut of the season, but what little hay he could cut back in June he had to sell. It was only a fraction of his 150 acres.

He's been going to where the land is more fertile in order to get his hands on some product.

"We're driving down [to] 40 miles north of the Florida line in a road tractor hauling hay back whenever we can," says Harden.

Harden also had to sell most of his grazing cattle since they have little grass to eat or water to drink. One of their ponds has shrunk from eight feet deep to little more than a large puddle. It's newly formed banks look like the floor of Death Valley.

READ MORE | Dairy farm taking a hit from the drought

"My goal here is, come next year in June, I don't want to have my barns full of hay and my customers gone somewhere else," adds Harden. "I want to try to keep my customers."

Barely breaking even, the Hardens are doing all they can to keep their home and keep food on the the table. They say they don't qualify for any state or federal drought relief.

"It covers the pasture, but does not cover the hay grounds. You know what? That leaves me completely out," states Harden.

Any rain that falls from here on out might be too little, too late.

"It sure looks doubtful that if the rain comes that I'm even going to make it," adds Harden.

The Hardens are hoping for an upcoming winter that's not too cold or snowy. They say that will help them get a good head start on next year which they hope ends up being a big turn around.

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