South Ga. ‘you pick’ farms seeing lower customer traffic this year

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Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 12:46 PM EDT
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TIFTON, Ga. (WALB) - Bob Welker owns Berry Good Farms in Tifton.

He’s heard from friends with businesses along the interstate that traffic on I-75 hasn’t slowed down much. To his local business, it has.

He said that’s frustrating when he’s only a few miles from the interstate.

“It probably wouldn’t cost a gallon of gas to come out here and go back. The whole idea is that it’s eating up their budget,” Welker said.

WALB News 10 asked a family who was on a trip from southern Illinois if that was a factor for them.

“No, we hadn’t taken a vacation in a long while so we decided just to go,” Tammy Chandler said.

The summer berries saved Welker from a bad year because the early freeze didn't get them.
The summer berries saved Welker from a bad year because the early freeze didn't get them. (WALB)

Chandler is a business owner in southern Illinois who plans to use some of the berries she picked in her food creations.

“I like meeting local people and seeing what they do for a living. The way that the culture is so different from here and southern Illinois,” Chandler said.

Unfortunately for Welker, stories like Chandler’s are less common this year. He has seen people who do come buy less than what they used to.

“You’re paying that much more for gas and that doesn’t take into consideration all the other inflation we’ve got. I think it has dropped the volume or the average ticket of the people who come out here,” Welker said.

Welker said sales have been enough though to make good business this year. Good enough so he hasn’t raised his prices. That is despite a challenging growing season.

“We had some extremes — a late freeze, really cold nights all of April. We probably had 10-15% loss due to just that late freeze,” Welker said.

Recently, there’s been no rain and heat near triple digits.

Welker said rain has been hit and miss for him of late. There have been recent days he’s gotten an inch or more. Welker said this will take him through the summer season.

Bob Welker rips away old branches from damaged crops.
Bob Welker rips away old branches from damaged crops.(WALB)

The next issue for him has been the heat. Welker said traffic is lower on days with feels-like temperatures in the triple digits. Heat also caused the loss of his entire tomato crop this year.

“Over 90 degrees, a lot of things won’t even bloom for fruit. Okra, tomatoes are a bad one about that. They will burn up around 95 every day,” Welker said.

He decided to protect his onions and other vegetables he could fit in a hot house.

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