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Local farmers hope for rain

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY -- You've heard the saying: "rain, rain, go away." But that's just the opposite of what people in the farming business are chanting these days. Lately, they've been begging for some wet weather. Since January the area's only received about 11 inches of rain. Area farmers say it's not enough to keep up their crops. Nursery employee Patty Brady said, "It's a lot of work, but it's all worth it in the end when you see them all thriving." Brady is one of many employees at Lewis Farms that watches over strawberries and blueberries. It's a tough job and one that Mother Nature is making even tougher. "When the temperatures get real hot and the plants are all drying out, we try to race against all the wind and heat," Brady said. Experts say the area weather is abnormally dry for this time of year with no rainfall since May 18. It's creating problems for local farmers and their crops. "The sun and the hot temperatures do start to bake them. You do see some brown spots and it's basically like sunburn," Brady said. Lewis Farms employees are trying to stifle the heat by watering crops more often. Their primary watering source is irrigation pumps planted underground to keep soil damp. "We like it where we can water it underground because it doesn't rot the berries on top, but the heat makes everything ripe real quickly." "The berries have been through a little rough spell, but overall, they've held up great and we're still picking this week." Though the drought hasn't affected the berry business quite yet, farmers say their water bills are getting steep. For now, dry conditions are primarily having a negative effect on crops like corn and tobacco. The drought isn't only affecting area farms, it's also forcing local residents to change their daily habits. The North Brunswick sanitary district sent notices to its residents, asking people to cut back on watering their lawns and plants between five and seven a.m. and five and seven p.m. The district says the ban was put in place because of recent water pressure issues. Officials do not anticipate lifting the restrictions until the end of September.

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