Growing pains on Eastern Iowa garden farms - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Growing pains on Eastern Iowa garden farms

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BENTON COUNTY (KWWL) -

A few years ago, Garret Birker decided to quit his day job, and take a gamble on gardening. He's no stranger to the whims of mother nature -- his family has farmed right outside Urbana for more than a century. But this summer...let's just say it's one for the books.

"This summer has been a little more of a challenge. Between hail storms, wind storms, heat, drought, too much rain, not enough rain. Everything has happened this year!" he said.

The July wind storm had the biggest impact -- at least, initially. Besides tearing down dozens of massive trees, it tore apart Birker's newly constructed high tunnel. But, somehow, most of the crops pulled through.

"We kind of just took a week off to get re-evaluated, and see where we were at, and then we were right back at it," he explained.

It's the dry heat that has really posed a challenge. The bent sweet corn you see on his farm isn't goose necking from the wind storm. That's how it's growing. Birker explained, the lack of water led to weak roots, but he's still managing to pull a good harvest for his customers each week.

"Sweet corn has been doing good. It was laying down, but it is harvestable," Birker said. "Peppers seem to be doing good. Jalepenos are doing excellent. Eggplant love the heat."

Most of Birker's crops -- like the sweet corn, are still okay -- even in the difficult weather. But now, he's looking ahead to what's coming this fall.

"Our CSA goes through Thanksgiving, so I'm needing to get my high tunnel up as fast as I can so I can get some crops in there, so they're protected if we have a frost in September or early October," he said.

Even in 90 degree weather, Birker is already concerned about an early frost. It may sound like too much to handle -- but he noted, that's the life of a farmer.

"You can't control it, and there's no use getting all worked up and stressed out about it. You just kind of go, and go with the flow," Birker added.

To learn more about Birker Gardens, click here.

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