Regional harvest looks good in spite of year's roller coaster weather
Schoharie County farmer Dave Shaul described this growing season as a roller coaster of weather conditions.
“It’s definitely been a year of extremes,” he said.
His 1,500-acre Fultonham farm had a dry early spring.
“Then we had three weeks of solid rain,” he said.
That rain came down so fast that Middleburgh’s main street became a temporary Schoharie Creek tributary. It was deep enough for a kayaker at one point.
There were cold stretches and hot spells, but after all that, Shaul’s harvest is coming in well.
Cornell Cooperative Extension regional vegetable specialist Crystal Stewart works with farmers across the Capital Region and said many aren’t so lucky.
“Most years you can generalize — the farms in the valley are doing well, or the ones on the hills,” she said. “This year there’s no pattern.”
She said the weather this growing season was impossible to predict, not just from day to day, but from farm to farm.
“There was damaging hail that might just hit a few farms,” she said, “or torrential rains that wiped out crops and weren’t even visible from the road.”
Shaul’s farm, for example, didn’t see much of the storm that flooded Middleburgh, just a few miles to the north.
Those unpredictable conditions had an interesting effect on the harvest. Sweet corn is planted and harvested on a roughly two-week rotation to stock roadside stands evenly for a large part of the summer. This year, corn drowned by heavy spring rains grew slowly while fields planted during the early July heat snap produced in record time.
“It was feast or famine,” Stewart said.
Shaul said a farmer from north of Amsterdam bought his corn to fill production gaps. Most other vegetables also had a strange season. The tomatoes will be late, caught in a perfect storm of bad conditions.
It was a cool spring, which Stewart said isn’t ideal for ripening. Even the one heat snap didn’t help.
“Past 85 degrees, biochemistry stops,” she said. “It’s really frustrating for the farmers.”
Even resilient veggies, like zucchini, which thrive in most weather conditions, weren’t fully pollinated, Stewart said. Bees don’t like flying in the rain, or working in hot sun.
All the bad luck though, was spread out over different areas. According to Farm Bureau statistics, things very nearly evened out.
“We’ve seen the crop bounce back,” said state Farm Bureau spokesman Steve Ammerman. “Especially with sweet corn.”
Exact numbers are hard to come by during harvest season. Too many vegetable stands line New York’s roads for the bureau to keep track, but Ammerman said estimates are pretty encouraging.
On a normal year, roughly one-third of sweet corn is harvested by mid August. So far, he said, the harvest is maybe a week behind that mark.
“But the harvested ears are getting high marks for quality,” he said.
Reach Gazette reporter John Enger at 212-6225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.