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Kempner produce farm forced to close due to extreme heat and drought

Posted at 7:01 PM, Jul 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-11 20:01:33-04

KEMPNER, TX — The massive heat wave we’ve been experiencing is just adding to the toll severe drought conditions have taken on farmers for months.

Central Texans need only walk outside to see that for themselves.

”A lot of our ground is caked out right now, it is cooked. So, we’ve got really dry ground and west of I-35 is where this drought is really hitting the hardest,” said 25 News Meteorologist, Josh Johns. “Gatesville, Copperas Cove, they’re all in this, what is called, exceptional drought. Which is the heaviest category of drought that we have.”

Smack dab in the middle of that area is Kempner, and that is where produce farmer Damon Cleaton has his farm.

A farm he was forced to shut down because of the intense heat and drought.

”I got to the point earlier in the season, about the end of May, where I stopped planting because I might as well go stick quarters in the ground,” said Damon Cleaton, Owner and Operator of Cleaton’s 4E Farms in Kempner. “It was a waste of money, and it would be a waste of time.”

A waste of time because, as Josh Johns said we are way behind on rainfall this year.

”Since January 1st, we’ve only picked up 8.85 inches. Since June 1st, we haven't even picked up an inch. So, already this year alone, we’re running close to a foot below normal,” said Josh Johns. “Normally, we’ve should see about 20inches of rain, and we’ve seen only have that if that.”

Summertime is when Cleaton usually grows and sells everything from corn to strawberries but, not his year.

”You can’t get the size you need on a plant to start producing squash, corn, potatoes, onions and when they to put on, the size is horrible. They’re small and it’s a factor of the heat,” said Cleaton.

If it wasn’t for the native plants he has growing in his greenhouse, he would have nothing to sell at all.

Even though he can’t do what he loves and feed his community, he is sticking by them the best way he knows how.

”There’s always stuff you can do in your back yard, and you can grow in your windowsill. So, don’t give up,” said Cleaton. “If you want to grow your own food, the least I can do right now is point you in the right direction and show you what to do. So, you can do it at home.”

Cleaton was forced to shut his farm down this year but said his greenhouse is still fighting and he’s hopeful for next year.