With a heat wave that blanketed the region in the past few weeks followed by torrential rain over the weekend, local crops don’t seem worse for the wear. The real damage came in April. As WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne reports, farmers in the region are hoping for good weather on weekends when the Hudson Valley is hopping with farm-going tourists.
Mark Adams, of Adams Fairacre Farms, is president of the Dutchess County Farm Bureau. He says the heavy rain over the weekend was needed especially for corn crops and the second cutting of hay.
“Actually, we need more than just what we got yesterday,” Adams says.
When it comes to rain and flooding, many use Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011 as a gauge and, fortunately, the recent downpours did not come close. Chris Pawelski is a fourth generation onion farmer at Pawelski Farms in the Black Dirt region of Orange County. He says there have been five inches of rain in three days.
“In this case, when you drive in the area, the ditches are low, there’s no water standing. It was dry. The ground, I mean, easily the first three, four inches the ground took. And some of it ran off a little bit when it came down heavier but, overall, the ground took it. So this is really beneficial. It would have been a lot better if it happened a month ago but," Pawelski says. "For some of the crops, it’s a little late, so for the onions it’s a little late, but for a lot of the crops, the majority, this is still coming in at a great time and this is going to really help them to continue to bulb in size and to produce fruit. So I’m actually very optimistic.”
Plus, he says the rain could help to brighten the fall foliage season. Again, Adams.
“Heat is not bad for the corn as long as it has water. So the heat wasn’t the problem,” says Adams. “The biggest problem this year was the warm winter followed by a hard frost in early April which devastated the peach crops, cherries, apricots and a lot of the apples because the blossoms came out early and then they were knocked back hard by that frost and actually the blossoms were killed.”
Adams says that, overall, Hudson Valley crops are in pretty good shape. Pawelski agrees, even though it has been dry since October.
“During the spring and the early to mid summer, we’ve had some rain interspersed at the right time. So the odd thing is for a lot of the crops until very, very recently they looked really good. Onions were looking fantastic until about two weeks ago. And a lot of the greens that are grown down here, the farmers had to irrigate them, but they were looking pretty good, too,” Pawelski says. “And it wasn’t until about two weeks ago when we started getting the real high heat, that it took its toll and then the onions started showing it where you saw the tips started to burn down and started to show some heat stress But, as I told one person, everything up to that point was as green as grass except for the grass.”
Now with the rain, the grass is greener, literally and figuratively. However, it’s a different story with apples. Adams says he spoke with farmers who have lost half their apple crops and this will cut into profits.
“The trouble is with the prices nowadays, if you don’t have everything come out perfect, you’re in trouble,” Adams says. “I remember years ago when we were picking apples back in the 1950s, you could lose 90 percent of your crop and the price of apples was so high that you still made money. Nowadays, you pretty much have to have 100 percent of your crop to break even. So it’s more trouble now than it used to be.”
New York Apple Association Spokeswoman Julia Stewart says there was a lot of concern in the Hudson Valley about the impact of the April frost. And while there were areas hard hit by frost and hail, Stewart says the overall picture for the Hudson Valley and the state as a whole is positive.
“The good news is that as the season has progressed the picture has turned out to be much better than most people anticipated. We’re expecting a very average crop from the region in terms of overall crop size,” Stewart says. “And, bonus, we’re expecting good fruit quality this year and ample supply of the varieties that consumers are going to be looking for.”
Varieties such as RubyFrost Snapdragon, and Honeycrisp along with old standards like McIntosh Cortland and Empire.