Long winter likely to shorten Minnesota Grown season - The Packer

Long winter likely to shorten Minnesota Grown season

05/24/2013 02:24:00 PM
Jim Offner

Minnesota had snowstorms in May, and some lakes still bore skins of ice more than a week into the month.

As a result, Minnesota produce suppliers and buyers are expecting a later-than-normal homegrown fruit and vegetable season.

According to the National Weather Service, Minneapolis-St. Paul in 2013 had the third-snowiest April on record, with 17.9 inches having fallen in the month.

Normally, the area receives 2.4 inches of snow in April. For the season, the metro area got 67.2 inches of snow through the end of April, compared to 54.4 normally. April also was the Twin Cities’ 11th-coldest on record, with an average high temperature of 48.6, compared to a norm of 57.8.

The late-departing winter apparently does not cool enthusiasm about the upcoming local crops, however.

“Everything is going to be about a month behind, but this week has been hot, and that’s going to germinate seeds in a hurry,” Tom Rodmyre, warehouse manager for St. Paul, Minn.-based Co-op Partners Warehouse, said May 8.

A sudden burst of warm weather during the week of May 13, during which temperatures climbed into the 80s, should speed things, but it won’t eradicate issues created by the harsh winter, Rodmyre said.

“They were out planting this weekend, but there’s still a little snow up north and there’s still some ice on the lakes,” Rodmyre said.

Produce suppliers agreed the homegrown crops would be late, but when the season begins, business will be active.

“There’s a number of very large local farms that provide a tremendous amount of product, I’d say, for three months out of the year,” said Adam Gamble, general manager of Inver Grove Heights, Minn.-based North Country Produce, a subsidiary of Wadena, Minn.-based Russ Davis Wholesale.

Corn, peppers, squash, beans, cucumbers and apples dominate the local offerings, he said.

“There has always been a lot of people trying to get local product, and it’s stronger than ever,” Gamble said.

The late departure of winter has Gamble wondering how long the 2013 local season will last.

“There will be a concern in the fall, if it cools off early and we have an early winter, that they won’t be able to harvest anything then,” he said.

Apples, for instance, might not size up as well as they would in a normal harvest, he said.

Last year, which brought an unusually balmy spring that brought out apple blossoms early, featured an untimely hard frost that wiped out nearly all the apple crop.

Dean Schladweiler, produce manager with The Wedge Community Co-Op, an organic retailer that owns an organic farm near Minneapolis, said his farm had missed nearly four rounds of planting because of unseasonably low temperatures.

“That is definitely money that will not be made up this year. It’s just a loss right off the bat,” he said.

The late start likely will affect early lettuces, radishes and greens more than anything, Schladweiler said.

A tardy growing season isn’t limited to Minnesota, said Tim Grace, spokesman with Minneapolis-based Chandler-Topic Co. Inc.

Tim Fortier, produce manager with Kowalski’s Markets, a Woodbury, Minn.-based retail grocery chain, said the late winter could hit corn the hardest.

“Our farmer said April 24 it’s the latest in 30 years he ever put his corn in,” Fortier said. “Greens and other items likely will catch up.”

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