Spring Successes

While many area residents are disappointed to the cold start spring has brought, local farmers don’t mind one bit.

On the heels of a 2012 spring which devastated agriculture in the area, farmers have been given a subsequent spring which they are describing with words like “ideal” and “advantageous.”

So far, this spring has been on the colder and wetter sides of average, however many farmers anticipate a good growing season, and some believe that it has the potential to be great.

“I don’t see any problems with crops right now whatsoever,” said Rick Walker of Walker’s Fruit Basket. “Everything is in a dormant enough stage that we’re not experiencing that problem. The (wet spring) has made it more difficult for our workers to get out there and efficiently get things done, but our crops are not going to be harmed, or reduce in quality in any way. If anything, the weather has put us a few days behind in terms of work, but it’s not that big of a deal and there’s nothing saying that we won’t catch up on that work eventually.”

Walker, along with many other farmers, are more apt to see mild weather as good news, since frost in April last year severely hindered crop production in Chautauqua County.

Walker believes that there is a chance the area could see a mild drought this summer, and said that rain early on could help to keep crops from drying up if something like that should happen.

Furthermore, Walker said that there are other parts of the country which are already experiencing mild to moderate droughts, which means that prices for some fruits will be higher than average this year. This could help local produce see a sort of boom, as drought might not affect the prices of produce in Chautauqua County.

“If we were really arid right now, we’d wonder if we were ever going to catch up,” said Walker. “The excess of rain isn’t hurting any and it might help. … Some Cornell employees were talking about how the cherry crop in Washington is already thin, so the price of cherries at grocery stores will be high this year. Of course, that means that there will be a higher demand for local crops. Hopefully that sets us up for success this summer.”

Sue Abers of Abers Acres shared many of the same sentiments on how spring has unfolded so far as Walker. Abers Acres largest crop is strawberries, which, according to her, shouldn’t be harmed by the conditions spring has brought.

“I would expect that our strawberry season is going to start a few weeks later and go a few weeks further into the summer,” said Abers. “I think every crop will probably grow a little bit later and a little bit longer, but nothing should really be damaged.”

However, Abers did say that the excess water has made it difficult to get annual plants going, but not impossible.

“When the ground is as saturated as it is, it makes it difficult to plant,” said Abers. “If you sew seeds right now, with as wet as the ground is, those seeds will rot before they ever have a chance to germinate. Our fields are still too wet to work, but we’re really fortunate that our fields have great drainage, and we’ll likely just need to wait a little longer than we’d like to plant our (annuals). There are some seeds that have coatings that let seeds to better in really wet ground, but being organic, we can’t really do that. When the ground is ready to plant, we’ll know.”

While strawberries traditionally are harvested during early June, Abers anticipates that this year they will be ready closer to mid-June. And instead of running out around early July, Abers anticipates Abers Acres should have strawberries into mid-July.