Farmers don’t wilt in this heat

Published 10:56 am Friday, June 28, 2024

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Most farmers love what they do, but not one could ever convince me they enjoy working in this heat.

I remember it well.

Sweat makes its way into every crack and crevice. The salt stings your eyes. Your skin feels like someone is holding a magnifying glass up to send down a burning ray of sun.

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All of that happens in the first five minutes you’re outside, but there are some parts of farming that don’t pause for the heat to pass. You get the job done, or you fail as a business.

Horses have to be trained, ridden and hauled. Cows and goats have to be milked. Hay has to be baled, even if it’s withering in the heat. So how do local farmers cope?

“Our biggest issue is, because of the heat, the cows aren’t wanting to eat, so their production is way down,” said Lisa Spoharski Higgins of C-Saw Hill Farm in Rutherfordton. She needs that milk because the family depends on its sale in a variety of locations in the area. Plus, their farm creamery needs a steady supply of milk for making ice cream, an addition to their business that is in the greatest demand during hot weather.

The heat complicates pretty much everything from grazing to breeding.

“We are having trouble getting them bred back because they don’t ‘take’ when it’s hot. I’m sure there is a scientific reason,” Lisa said. Although the cows normally would be grazing in a pasture, the long, hot spell has cooked the green grass to straw. “Our pastures are burnt up,” she said.

Lisa Spoharski Higgins and her daughter CJ taking a break from C-Saw Hill Farm in Rutherfordton

Farmers have to rise earlier to get work done before the furnace goes full blast.

“Once the heat sets in, I can only put in my most productive work hours from 7 a.m. to noon,” said Sofia Lilly of her family’s Overmountain Vineyards in Tryon.

Work encompasses a top-tier vineyard producing barrels of wine off 18 acres of vines and a 2.5-acre blueberry field where you can pick your own, or Sofia and her crew will pick them for you. And the fig trees will be producing fruit in August.

But trying to be everywhere at once is a recipe for a heat stroke.

“It comes down to basic time management. And, having enough help to get the job done in a timely fashion so that you’re not left working in the dead of the heat. The work will still be there tomorrow, and it’s not worth having a heat stroke over,” she said.

In her “spare” time, Lilly has been serving as a chair of the Polk County Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers group in partnership with Rutherford County.

She and Lisa, and their families, would appreciate your rain dancing.

Sofia Lilly working the vineyard at Overmountain Vineyards in Tryon

Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at