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Tennessee River Valley sees nearly double normal amount of rain in October, affecting agriculture

Some East Tennessee farmers are hurrying to finish their harvest before freezing temperatures hit.

GRAINGER COUNTY, Tenn. — Rain is usually a good thing for farmers, helping plants grow and thrive. However, too much can be harmful to plants. The excess moisture can cause mold and other issues to grow.

After a rainy October, some East Tennessee farmers are trying to wrap up their harvests before it gets too much colder. Owner of B&B farms in Grainger County, Brandon Williams, specializes in tomato farming. He believes the rain both helps and hurts.

"A sale is a sale but you like to get the best price you can," Williams said. "A lot of rain on your tomatoes and they'll crack, bust open, and you have to sell them for less."

Blight is a molding rot that occurs when certain crops get too much water. For Williams, the race to harvest before blight plagued his crop was on. He said they had to get everything picked off as soon as they could. However some tomatoes didn't make it, he said.

Williams is a third-generation farmer who's picked up a few tricks over the years. So, he's used to losing a few tomatoes. 

"We can do without rain at all with the tomatoes. We'd be better off if it never did rain because we control the irrigation," he said.

He still has flourishing tomatoes in his greenhouses. Reliability doesn't come cheap though. With the price of propane expected to rise this winter, Williams said that he is preparing. He said that it can cost $100 per night to keep one of his greenhouses warm. 

If something malfunctions in the night, it could be devastating. He said there is around $12,000 through $15,000 worth of crops in each greenhouse. And there’s an even higher risk when freezing temperatures hit.

"You could wake up in the morning, something goes wrong and you could lose thousands of dollars in a heartbeat," he said.

But it’s a passion Williams says is well worth the risk.

"It's what I've always done,” he said. “It's fun!”