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By Ethan Kibbe
NORTH EAST, Pa. (Erie News Now) – Doty Wagner devoted her life to her family’s farm in North East, giving decades of labor growing cherries, grapes and other fruits.
“I thought I was going to be able to retire at 65, and I was going to be able to travel,” she said with a laugh.
Instead, the 71-year old still works every day, and she just had to take out a bank loan to afford fuel for spring planting.
“The price of gas is killing us,” she said. “And the price of labor is killing us too. You can’t find anyone who’s willing to work for less than $13 an hour.”
Now, she can add rainfall to her list of struggles, as a prolonged dry spell has grapes wilting and cherries suffering.
Irrigation costs too much, so she’s praying for rain, hoping her crop can thrive.
Wagner says already it’s too late for rain to help the cherry crop. If cherries suddenly got a lot of rain, they’d grow too quickly and split or they’d become too big and get to soft.
Local farmers aren’t the only ones suffering.
The entire state needs rain to avoid economic disaster.
“I’m concerned,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “I’m still hopeful. Every day is an opportunity for rain. But we are in that really critical spot in mid July where crops are made or not due to a timely shower.”
After 50 years of farming, Wagner knows worrying won’t solve anything, so she keeps hoping for rain, finding a way to make ends meet.
“As long as I pay my bills and have enough food on the table, and I don’t lose my house, I feel like I’m blessed,” she said.
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