Hot, dry weather hurting Grainger County tomato crops

RUTLEDGE (WATE) – Tomato season is underway and farmers say the recent hot and dry weather is hurting the world famous Grainger County tomato crops.

Farmers say this past weekend’s rain came just in time, but they have not seen much since they started picking tomatoes last month.

“We’ve had a lot of dry weather up ’til Saturday. Saturday we had quite a bit of rain. Yesterday we had a lot,” said Brandon Williams.

Farmers say this past weekend's rain came just in time, but they have not seen much since they started picking tomatoes last month.
Farmers say this past weekend’s rain came just in time, but they have not seen much since they started picking tomatoes last month.

Williams’ family runs the Hubert Williams Farm in Grainger County. They grow thousands of those famous tomatoes each year.

“They tell me the soil and the variety that we all grow make them good flavor,” he said. “This year we got right at 100,000 plants out.”

With temperatures well above average in May and June those farmers are feeling the heat.

“It’s hard on them. It’s hard on the foliage and the tomatoes, and it makes them turn ripe real fast,” said Williams. “Where there ain’t no moisture, it cooks them. Just fries them.”

So far this season has been pretty dry. May saw about three inches less rain than average, and the farmers say you can see that on the plants. The leaves start to shrivel up, but they say some of the recent rain is helping their plants open back up.

“Need not extremely dry, not extremely hot, but like 80s,” said Williams.

Once picked, most of the Williams’ tomatoes will be packed and shipped out to grocery stores, so Williams is hoping to see good weather bring in a big crop.

“We got a bunch of stores that we have to fulfill. We got to have a lot of tomatoes for them. Yeah it’s going to be busy,” he said.

The Grainger County Tomato Festival is just about a month away. It will run July 23-26.

Once picked, most of the Williams' tomatoes will be packed and shipped out to grocery stores, so Williams is hoping to see good weather bring in a big crop.
Once picked, most of the Williams’ tomatoes will be packed and shipped out to grocery stores, so Williams is hoping to see good weather bring in a big crop.

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