YORK -- The Downtown York Farmers Market is in full swing as summer crops arrive.
But don't count on finding much locally grown corn on the cob.
Agricultural experts have declared York County's corn crops a 100 percent loss because of the dry growing conditions.
"Corn has really taken a hit," said Clemson Extension Agent Andy Rollins, who specializes in fruits and vegetables.
Most crops planted in late March or April should have matured by June. But that never happened.
"During the last two or three weeks of the growing season, there wasn't enough rain or moisture in the ground to make an ear of corn," said Joe Guthrie, an agricultural agent with The Clemson Extension Service in York. "Plus, the near-100 degree weather affects the pollination. Corn just didn't have the right conditions to mature."
The loss is yet another blow to the area, which lost its entire peach crop to a freeze in April 2007 and saw a hay shortage last summer during an extreme drought.
"In farming, it's all about the weather," said Guthrie, who didn't have an estimate of how many crops were lost to the drought.
Guthrie said corn grown for chicken and cattle feed or cornmeal suffered most. He said farmers who produce sweet corn may have fared better, especially those who used an irrigation system.
Clint Boyd, whose family owns Boyd's Produce in Clover, had mixed results from his corn crops.
"What we irrigated came in. What we didn't, didn't mature," said Boyd, who brought in corn from other parts of the state to sell at his produce stand on U.S. 321.
Those hit hardest by the drought were small garden growers such as Newport's John Covington, who said this year's drought seems worse than last year's. He planted an acre of corn on April 2, but none of it grew because of the weather.
"If we do get rain, it's at the wrong time," Covington said, explaining the series of May showers were too early and the July rains came too late.
Eddie Robinson is one of the lucky ones. Most of his corn crop came in at his home garden just outside York.
Robinson planted a 2-acre crop in a low area and said he got help from a little bit of rain.
Even then, two patches didn't mature and some of the corn that did wasn't the same quality as previous years' crops. Several ears showed signs of insect damage and others had small, undeveloped kernels.
"Anytime plants are stressed, pests are more difficult to control," Rollins said. "They thrive on a weakened host."
Rollins said a drought can cause smaller ears or fewer ears per stalk.
"With drought corn, you're lucky to get one ear and that one may be a pitiful ear," Rollins said. "With farming, it's always a gamble."
The gamble paid off for Robinson, who still managed to bring an entire truckload of sweet corn to sell at the Downtown York Farmers Market on a recent Saturday morning. He was the envy of other corn growers that day.
Robinson, who retired from the Bleachery, relies on the cash from his produce and sells his corn for $4 a dozen, the national rate, he says.
The price is high, but that's because his own costs are higher this year.
"I go to buy fertilizer and it's like gas -- it keeps going up," Robinson said.
In recent years, fertilizer sold for about $200 a ton, Guthrie said. Now it's closer to $600 or $700 per ton.