Wacky Weather No Worry for Northeast Farmers
~Cara Di Falco
The last few weeks have been a bit bizarre if you live in the Northeast. By mid-February we were in the 70’s, and in late March over a foot of snow was dumped on us. If you’re like me, you may have noticed some of the Spring flowers peeking out of the ground; only to be covered up again. But what if you’re a farmer and it was your livelihood peeking out of the ground? What about us consumers? Should we be worried about rising prices and a decrease in supply? The farmers I spoke with say we have nothing to worry about!
Anthony Bracco, owner of Bracco Farms in Pine Island, NY, said that as a vegetable farmer the snowy weather only delayed him from getting plants in the ground. “For us vegetable farmers, this month is used for field prep. We clean up last year’s waste, all the weeds, all the old plants, turn the dirt over…and that (the snow) is delaying us now.” A field can’t be shoveled or snow plowed. Farmers have to wait for the snow to melt and the dirt to dry out a bit before seeds and seedlings can be planted. Since Bracco can’t access his fields to get them ready, he’s anticipating, at worst, about a two week delay in getting his crops to market. However, they will all be there. Kurt Alstede of Alstede Farms in Chester, NJ agrees saying “Perhaps even bigger and larger an impact on our operation than the cold right now is the snow we just had. For the middle of March to have... We’ve got about a foot to 18 inches of snow on the ground and it’s going to stay cold. It’s very unusual for us to not be out in late March doing something in terms of vegetable planting. So this is going to crunch a lot of the work up into April, but it has happened before and it’s just part of the deal of being a farmer.”
The weather could still decide to help farmers along in the coming weeks. Alstede says “What we’ve seen is that you could have a very cold winter, even a very cold March and then very quickly make up ground in April and May. There’ve been years when we thought ‘my gosh it’s gonna be a late Spring.’ And then you have a warmer than normal 7-10 days in April and you catch up right away.” Alstede Farms grows not only vegetable, but fruits which are a bit more susceptible to the cold. And while he did see the buds start to swell a bit on his trees, he says there’s no evidence of damage to any of the crops so far.
Both Alstede and Bracco said that while the weather certainly has them biting their nails, so far there’s nothing to be worried about. Weather is, of course, not entirely predictable and both men explained that anything could still happen that may help or hurt their businesses. As for consumers, we should still be able to get our Spring and Summer bounties in full, and for the most part, on time.