Drought has many searching for summertime veggies

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Kendall Downing

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Ill. — Green thumb or not, many of us turn to the soil for that summer garden. But with our area facing an unprecedented drought, some of those vegetables will be bowing out this year.

Corn and green beans are just a couple veggies you might miss but don't worry. All hope is not lost. It looks like there's still enough of a harvest to get your summer fill.

Paul Loucks stays busy pushing produce.

"It's better than I thought it would be, I mean my business," said Loucks.

He's been selling in Williamson County for 11 years but Loucks said his profit right now could top them all. The reason is the dry weather.

Tomatoes are a top-seller and that's especially true this year. Many people are telling him they just gave up on their own gardens.

"Most people are done with their garden now and they're relying on us," said Chris Neville.

Neville is the produce manager at Carbondale's Neighborhood Co-Op Grocery.

He said it's a phenomenon their store is dealing with, too, except this year, the Co-Op had to expand its network just to keep the produce aisle full.

"We work with about 50 different farmers," he said. "Normally, we work with about 20."

While greens and corn are in shorter supply, peaches and berries are everywhere. But even that will stop soon.

"Everything's kind of wrapping down, so we're going to have to find alternative ways to fill the shelves," said Neville.

At least in the short term, the dry weather means big business for sellers.

"Who's to say what's going to happen in two weeks? I look for it to slow down," said Loucks.

But summers to come may not be so kind.

"It could take up to a year to get that subsoil moisture back, so it could mean devastation to the crops next year," said Neville.

Bugs are also a problem because of the mild winter. Farmers report they are eating holes into their plants.

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