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Local farmers won't know the full damage until test results come back in January

MADRAS PIONEER - Carrot Seed farmer Marty Richards checks a seed head to see how many seeds he's getting and what size the seeds are. He says after the drought and extreme heat, it looks like his harvest is about 70% of normal.

Carrot seed has long been one of Jefferson County's premier crops.

As farmers harvest this year's crop, they say both the drought and the extreme heat took its toll.

"If I had to be pinned down, I'd say it looks like about 70% of an average crop," says Marty Richards in the middle of harvesting his carrot seed. "It could be better, that's not likely, or it could be worse, and that's my biggest fear."

Richards and other farmers won't know all the details until January when they clean the seeds and labs test for things like germination, purity and size.

"It's a certain set of specs we have to meet. For every standard we don't meet, we get docked," says Richards.

Precision planting requires especially high standards for carrot seed, Richards says. Farmers plant precisely one seed in each hole at precisely regular spacing. Too close grows skinny carrots, too far grows fat carrots.

Without those tests, Richards already knows the extreme heat, those triple-digit hot days when temps spiked to 113 degrees, hurt his crop.

The heat hit when the king umbel, the biggest flower on top of the stalk, glowed white with pollen.

"I watched the heat turn that white to brown over the course of 48 hours," says Richards. "So, we know we lost that pollen."

Another carrot seed farmer, Rob Galyen, says the heat hurt the pollinators, too.

"Honeybees don't do well in the heat," says Galyen.

 - Marty Richards harvests his carrot seed on a field just south of Madras. He says after drought and extreme heat, he estimates his crop is only 70% of normal. He won't find out until the labs test his seed in January.Galyen planted based on the 1-acre-foot allotment the irrigation unit predicted. The drought cut his supply then placed a cap on how much he could order at a time. The shortage forced Galyen to make difficult decisions.

"Would I be better off watering 100% of the acres at 50% or 50% of the acres at 100%?" Galyen chose the former and will learn whether his bet paid off when he gets his test results next year.

"I think it's average at best. Below average," says Galyen. "I would be ecstatic with an average year."

The rain Friday, Sept. 10, cut both ways for Galyen.

It helps the carrots he planted this fall. "This will ensure the survivability of our carrots until October 6 when our water gets turned back on."

On the other hand, the rain means he won't be able to combine 20 acres of his parsley.

"I'm glad to see the rain," says Galyen. "I wish I'd gotten my parsley combined."

The heat, not the rain, hurt Richards' parsley.

"We grow hybrid parsley seed and we had 75 acres of parsley and it's always been a consistent crop for us and done very well," says Richards. "As it looks right now, they estimated it to be about 10% of a crop. It's just as valuable as carrot seed to us. We have a similar investment in it."

Richards and Galyen both grow a variety of crops, all succeeded and failed to varying degrees this year. Both farmers agree this has been the worst year in all their years of farming.

"It's been a long harvest," says Galyen. "I'm ready to wrap up '21 and be done with it and get on to '22."

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