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Deer adding insult to drought’s injury on some Minnesota farms

<i>WCCO</i><br/>With dry land surrounding the Justin Nelson's family farm
With dry land surrounding the Justin Nelson's family farm

By Kirsten Mitchell

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    ELK RIVER, Minnesota (WCCO) — While some areas saw brief rain showers this weekend, it wasn’t enough to relieve drought conditions across the state.

“We have a clay mix and normally it’s not powdery like this at all. Like this is crazy,” Justin Nelson said, as he picked up a handful of dry soil.

At the Nelson Family Farm in Elk River, the drip irrigation system is keeping the rows of vegetables alive.

“You get tons of rain for like three weeks straight, and then you get no rain, and there’s no consistency,” Nelson said.

His parents started the family farm 37 years ago. They would like to expand another two acres or so, but the land is too dry to plow.

“The plow gets just stuck because it’s like concrete underneath there,” he said.

The drought delayed their planting season and hiked up costs and labor.

“Every time we plant a patch we have to lay drip tape right away,” he said. “It just takes a lot of time and extra money, too.”

With dry land surrounding the farm, Nelson thinks the deer population is looking for new food sources. Recently, they hopped the electric fence to get to their pepper crop.

“We had a herd of deer that came in here and they ate like 50% of our peppers. If you go down through the rows, I mean, they nipped off the tops of every single plant,” he said.

More than a thousand plants were destroyed. It’s unclear if they will bounce back.

“It’s very discouraging because…I just put in all this time seeding these peppers, growing them in the greenhouse, planting them, all for them just to be gone,” he said.

They now use a natural repellent to fend off the deer. It’s another tool to help keep them from being at the mercy of Mother Nature.

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