Farmer turns to Irish Spring, scares away deer pests
Andy Howe, who runs Beans and Greens farm stand with his wife Martina, made a plea for help in July in a newspaper story, asking for help because his lettuce, beans, melons and pumpkins were being ravaged nightly.
'One morning I drove past the meadow at about 4 a.m. and there were 12 deer out there eating my lettuce,' Howe said.
Deer eating crops is nothing new to farmers, but Howe said the dry winter and dry summer likely caused the influx of deer.
In past years, Howe and his staff have been permitted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to control the infringing deer herds by shooting the 'alpha doe,' the lead female deer that communicates directions to the other deer.
'Normally, we only have a few deer, and they are all does, the bucks look on from the woods, but this year they were very hungry, and they were mostly bucks,' he said. 'It's really unusual to see bucks.'
They tried other remedies like buying and dropping coyote urine, chicken blood, wire fences and even electric fences. But by August, Beans and Greens had lost 8,000 heads of lettuce, some bean crops, and the melon, squash and pumpkin crops were in jeopardy.'
Howe figures the deer cost his farm $25,000 in sales.
'There was a period of six weeks during the season when I didn't harvest a head of lettuce, that's never happened,' he said. 'It was pretty discouraging. We plant so much every year to so that they can't eat it all, but this year they did, and all we could do was keep replanting.'
After getting 20 or so calls from local farmers who had read about his plight, and trying all the suggested remedies, one farmer suggested he try Irish Spring. So, Howe and his staff tried it. They sliced 30 bars of the soap and hung the slices on 4-foot garden stakes every 50 feet in the farm's eight acres of gardening fields.
It worked. 'The soap seems to have done the trick,' he said. 'I don't know the science of it, but there's something in the soap that they apparently don't like.'
The fall crops should be fine, he said, though not as strong as the Howes would like.
'The damage went way, way down in the plants, they were eating every fresh shoot as soon as the plants produced them,' he said. 'But we seem to have found a solution in the soap.'