The saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers,” but what happens when there’s a historical amount of showers in June? A ruined harvest, says some of the farmers around the area.
Richard Robinson, of Hopestill Farm in Sherborn, said the amount of rain in June has had a suffocating effect on some of his crops. “It varies from farm to farm and field to field, but my sandy fields were destroyed. The rain suffocates the plants because oxygen can’t get to the plants,” he said.
Most affected were his squash and pumpkin crops. “The plants just couldn’t get going. Our business will be affected in the fall,” he said.
With a wet June and an extreme hot early July, some other crops haven’t been doing so well. “The combination of water stress and the heat did a job on the number of things. The heat isn’t good for lettuce and broccoli,” he said.
“I would say the cucumbers, some of the summer squash and zucchini are suffering. We don’t have nearly as much as we normally do,” said Rick Kelly, of Kelly’s Farm in Upton. “The peaches are also a lot smaller than we anticipated.”
Ken Foppema, of Foppema Farm in Northbridge, said the rain has taken a toll on his crops as well. “The rain has and is having crippling effects and will through the middle of August. Some of the fields won’t yield as heavily.” Foppema said his experience this season was that his green beans will be suffering.
Some Crops Suffer, Some Crops Flourish
While the June rain impacts the crops in a negative way, the extreme heat in July has actually helped farmers’ crops in the area this summer.
“One hand washes the other,” Foppema said. “Extreme heat will make up for the extreme rain in June.”
He explained that peppers and tomatoes are the kinds of plants that thrive in heat.
“We grow our own tomatoes and cucumbers which are inside in the heated greenhouse, so we control the water inside. We have excellent crops for those and the moment,” Robinson said.
“Tomatoes are doing really well. Those crops look promising for a good harvest,” Foppema said. “The fruit crops are doing great too, blueberries, raspberries, our apples are looking good.”
Jim Harvey of Harvey’s Farm in Westborough said, “We used to say corn was king and tomato was queen but now it’s reversed. We had big, beautiful tomatoes because I have all sorts of green houses.”
Harvey said he brought 400-500 tomatoes to a farmer’s market that day because they have grown in so well this season.
For Kelly’s Farm, corn is still king, but the tomatoes are successful as well. “Corn and tomatoes definitely do the best. I really can’t complain too much, I’m happy we’re still doing alright,” Kelly said.
Alex Marcoaldi, of Highland Farms in Holliston, said the weather hasn’t been a factor in his crops so much as the deer eating them. “This is the first time I’ve had this problem, the deer are eating my vegetables, my corn, beans,” he said. “Apples will be right on schedule, those are doing just fine.” Marcoaldi said Sept. 18 is when his farm will be open to apple picking, thanks to how well the crops have done this year, but right now, he’s looking at different options to keep the deer off his farm.
Tools for Success
For many farmers, however, the fundamentals of a successful harvest despite an intemperate summer are diversification. If a farm relies too heavily on a certain kind of crop, when it doesn’t do well as a result of the weather, it can be disastrous for the farm’s income. What local farms do is offer a large amount of products for customers.
“Everything seems to average out,” Foppema said. “I think we’re looking to do just as well this season. We have a diverse crop of fruits and vegetable. When one or two crops don’t do too well, others are outstanding.”
“The key it to diversify,” Robinson said. “We many different crops. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll be doing the same this year as in years past.”
For Harvey in Westborough, with fifty years of experience in farming, he’s seen it all and he’s prepared for it all. For him, the rain wasn’t an issue.
“We use an impervious one-mil black plastic,” he said. Harvey explained it’s a material placed on top of the soil which isn’t porous to let the heavy rain douse his crops. “We lock in whatever moisture is in the soil when we put it down. Rain makes any nutrients in the soil disappear. This black plastic keeps weeds out and keeps crops clean.”
Harvey also explained the plastic also allows the heat of the sun to be absorbed through it. “What I say is what you put in, you get out,” in relation to the timing of planting and the type of crops.
Harvey also made some suggestions for people struggling with their own crops in their home gardens because of the weather.
“The biggest problem is humans and a hose,” he said. “They don’t realize or understand heat and lack of moisture are not the same thing. Most of the heat we’ve had is humid, sot he plants don’t need more water.”
Harvey said plants can’t handle a large amount of water, the main problem with crops in June.
Next year, farmers hope for a little less wild weather, though they need to be ready for whatever comes.
“I hope next year we’ll have more temperate conditions,” Robinson said.