DeKALB – Farmers around the country have been taking hits as a result of the nationwide drought. But there are actually some businesses that do better in drier seasons.
For one, the wine might taste better.
Drier conditions stress the grapes out more, causing them to have more concentrated juice. This, in turn, should lead to richer local wine in 2013.
“When you drop water weight, you get more flavor per gallon of wine,” said Rick Mamoser, owner and winemaker at Prairie State Winery in Genoa.
However, Terrie Tuntland, president of Waterman Winery in Waterman, cautioned that the quality of the wine will not be known until it is tasted next year. But Tuntland agreed with the premise.
“Grapes like it hot and dry,” Tuntland said. “Hopefully it’s a good year for making wine.”
It has also been a busy summer for Bill Weirich Well Drillers. Company owner Bill Weirich said he has been drilling wells deeper and bigger in DeKalb and Kane counties because people need access to more water.
“It has been a lot of service work because people have been running their water to keep up [with the dry season],” Weirich said.
Weirich said his company deepened one well in Kane County from 400 feet to 700. Another well in Shabbona was deepened to 500 feet, but Weirich said that well now turns out 50 gallons of water a minute.
Weirich estimated business is up 40 percent compared to the past couple of years, but he noted that this year’s drought has been “unfortunate for a lot of people.”
Chris Carpenter, owner of One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning and Ben Franklin Plumbing in DeKalb, said his air conditioning business has been burgeoning because of the higher temperatures, with more customers calling him to fix or perform tune-ups on their air conditioning units.
Another heating and A/C business, All-Star Heating and Air Conditioning in DeKalb, has seen business increase by 25 percent, estimated owner Gregory Freeman.
“The hot summer has helped our business tremendously,” Freeman said.
But some of these business owners gave other reasons as to why this might be a break-even year for them because of the drought.
Mamoser said that although the quality of grapes are better, the quantity certainly has dropped.
The drought has killed off a number of grape vines, reducing the overall tonnage of grapes he grows and buys. Mamoser said his supply has dropped 50 percent, and other vineyards he has visited in central and southern Illinois also are selling smaller amounts of grapes.
Tuntland said he has also lost a few vines. The drought has forced his winery to water some of his vines, something he normally doesn’t do during wetter seasons.
Tuntland also voiced concern about how the grapes might react to the drought. He said the grapes at his winery are American-French hybrids, and that the species is new to the point where he is “not sure how they will react in certain conditions.”
Carpenter mentioned that his plumbing business was slower than usual.
“With no water, people haven’t had to drain anything,” Carpenter said.
Joe Cranden, the co-owner of Ollie’s Frozen Custard in Sycamore, said the hotter temperatures have been both a blessing and a curse for his business. People will come out on hot days, but they’ve stayed inside when it’s too hot. That hurts businesses like Ollie’s, which serve customers outside.
“People who don’t want to come out don’t want to stand in line,” Cranden said.
Meanwhile, the drought continues to have an impact on crop production nationwide. The National Agricultural Statistics Service projects September’s corn and soybean production will be down from last year and last month, according to a report released Wednesday.
Illinois farmers in particular, are projected to harvest 110 bushels of corn an acre, down from August’s 116 bushels and 2011’s 157. The state’s soybean harvest is projected to stay the same between August and September at 37 bushels an acre, but these are down from 2011, which saw 47 bushels an acre harvested.