Drought creates not-so-flowery outlook for Scott County growers

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There's nothing flowery about the outlook for local growers. Drought is creating some of the toughest conditions ever. It's even threatening the future for some local producers.

"I think we'll see a lot of people go out of business and say, 'This is it,'" said Cathy Lafrenz, who operates Miss Effie's Country Flowers in Donahue, Iowa.

A tank that normally waters two acres of annuals is bone dry. That means sprinklers must run constantly to keep flowers alive. It's a challenge to make it through the growing season.

"We have the capabilities of staving almost 3,000 gallons," Lafrenz said. "We haven't had a drop in it all year long."

Some flower beds that are normally full of color just aren't making it. That's a strain on local growers trying to make ends meet.

"It will be interesting to see what next year's costs will have to be to make it and do this again," she said.

Lafrenz, who opened the cut-your-own flower operation in 2002, puts in a lot of 14-hour days. Even though her costs will increase next year, she's holding prices at $15 for a bucket of fresh cut flowers.

"It's dry out there," said customer Michelle Jeuhring. "But the fields look like they're holding out, which is good."

Extreme weather takes extra effort. Annuals bloom later and less often. There are more weeds and bugs. The delicate crop is even more fragile.

While business is good at Miss Effie's, there's caution for others in the business of growing specialty crops like flowers.

"You're going to have to really love doing this to keep on doing it," she said.

Bloom-by-bloom, making the most of a tough season.

"We're beginning to see customers that are surprised to see how many flowers that we have because nobody has flowers in their own yard," she said.

Miss Effie's Country Flowers has dozens of annuals available. It's at 27387 130th Avenue in Donahue, Iowa. The fields are open 9-5, Wednesday through Friday, and 9-3 on weekends.

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