Jeffrey Raub is concerned.
It's late July and he's worried about his corn stalks. Temperatures have reached triple digits over the past few days and these scorchers are sapping his crops of precious moisture.
"The corn is under a lot of stress," said Raub, whose family has served as farmers in the region since the 1800s. "We have a nice tall stalk, but the ears are not there yet. There's not much we can do, though, except pray for rain and hope that Mother Nature takes over."
Jeffrey and Kathryn Raub know the difficulties of farming -- in any weather. Since setting up shop on Tatamy Road in the mid-1970s, the family has farmed 740 acres in the area, mainly focusing on corn, soybeans, garden crops like tomatoes and peppers, and pumpkins and mums. They've hired a crop consultant to provide helpful advice and try to stay on top of their game by winning the constant war with weeds.
"We like to start with clean fields," Jeffrey Raub said. "We spend a lot of money on lime and fertilizer to fight off the weeds from taking over and taking the moisture out of the ground."
The focus is on early spring, he said, and making sure that soil samples are taken and that the fertilizer is down along with certain chemicals and herbicides. There's no irrigation on the farm other than with mums, he said.
"We need to because they are potted. Otherwise, they would dry up in a day or two."
The farm benefits from rich soil: The Lehigh Valley boasts limestone, some of the best soil available, Raub said.
"It's definitely tough to survive as a farmer these days," he said. "While the prices of crops are up, so are fuel prices and fertilizer and chemical costs."
So the family decided to get creative. For one thing, they minimize the fuel they use. Secondly, they added a farm store where they sell their crops, including fruit they import and also many canned items that Kathy makes, such as homemade salsa and jams.
"We're in the 'agri-tainment' business," they both state. "We're dealing with the public a little more so we can have some fun," Jeffrey said. "We offer clean, green family fun. People like to come out to the farm and get fresh vegetables."
They also enjoy hayrides and pumpkins and corn mazes during the fall, something the Raubs capitalized on by adding a 14-acre corn maze -- which featured a haunted house, witch, pumpkin and a ghost.
"We have to put the word out there," Jeffrey said. "We're spending as much money on advertisements as we are on corn."
Raub's Farm Market is open seven days a week from 10am to 6pm. The farm is at 1459 Tatamy Road, Palmer Township.
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