At first glance, the Swartzentruber Amish of St. Lawrence County, New York, look to be self-reliant stewards of a bucolic and unchanging landscape. Although their daily chores demand Olympic stamina — regiments of mugwort-weeding and hay-bailing — the Swartzentrubers still pause and wave politely to 18-wheelers passing through the county, which stretches from the Adirondacks to the suburbs of Montreal.
But over the last decade, new neighbors such as thousand-cow dairies and genetically modified starch producers have moved into the region, vying with Amish farm stands selling strawberries, night crawlers, and maple syrup.
The scenario facing the Swartzentrubers, who account for the second-fastest-growing Amish settlement in New York, could spell caution for any locavore or family business frustrated by economic shifts.
LUBBOCK, Texas — Randy McGee spent $28,000 in one month pumping water onto about 500 acres in West Texas before he decided to give up irrigating 75 acres of corn and focus on other crops that stood a better chance in the drought.
He thought rain might come and save those 75 acres, but it didn’t and days of triple-digit heat sucked the remaining moisture from the soil. McGee walked recently through rows of sunbaked and stunted stalks, one of thousands of farmers counting his losses amid record heat and drought this year.
The drought has spread over much of the southern U.S., leaving Oklahoma the driest it has been since the 1930s and setting records from Louisiana to New Mexico. But the situation is especially severe in Texas, which trails only California in agricultural productivity.
McGee is still watering another variety of corn, cotton and sorghum but the loss of nearly one-sixth of his acres after spending so much on irrigation weighs on him.
“Kind of depressing,” the 34-year-old farmer said. “You use that much of a resource and nothing to show for it. This year, no matter what you do, it’s not quite enough.”