Farming Woes in SWLA

June 19, 2007

Reported by: Britney Glaser

With chances for rain in the forecast every day this week, some local farmers are fearing that they will have to throw away more of their crops.  At an Allen Parish farm, the wet ground has resulted in a huge loss for a farming family.

It doesn't take much rainfall to keep the ground saturated at the Melsheimer's farm in Reeves. While some rain is needed to keep crops growing, too much can be detrimental to a farming family's income.

Long before the sun comes up each morning, the Melsheimer family is preparing for another day of hard work on the farm.  Chuck Melsheimer says, "We run about 300 cows, farming more than 30 acres of watermelon and cantaloupe, and sell horse hay."

It's a family affair for the Melsheimers, with the 7-year-old twins pitching in to help the family clear a profit.  Jackie Melsheimer says, "This is the first year the kids have actually been out in the field. They planted watermelons and cantaloupes and now they're picking the cantaloupes. So, it's real stressful, but they've learned a lot from it."

With farming as the primary source of income for this family - stress is a constant part of their lives.  "Too much rain, not enough rain," says Chuck, "it's the mercy of mother nature."  Jackie says the unpredictable weather is the major stressor for her and her husband.  "You can't control it," says Jackie, "it's simple...you have a good year [in weather], you have a good year...if you have a bad year, you have a bad year."

In about a five minute time frame on Monday, the skies went from sunny and blue to dark - and then came the rain.  "The rain every afternoon this week has been really tough on the cantaloupes," says Jackie.

The Melsheimers have thrown away about 700 rotten cantaloupes this week after wet grounds destroyed them.  "The products don't hold up in the field," says Chuck, "you know, we've been getting an excessive amount of rain on this product and you start having crop damage in the field, and you'll lose 40 percent of your crop."

So for now, the Melsheimers are hoping for sunnier skies, and a little more business to head to their produce stand on Highway 190 in "Downtown Reeves."

Every five years, the Federal Farm Bill is revised, and 2007 is the year that a new Farm Bill will be implemented. To read about what's at stake, click here.