Michigan vegetables escape cold snap mostly unscathed

06/06/2012 10:49:00 AM
Andy Nelson

HUDSONVILLE, Mich. — Late freezes that devastated Michigan fruit crops mostly spared the state’s vegetables.

For the first time in a century, Michigan’s March was warmer than its April, said Todd Miedema, marketing director and principal for Hudsonville-based Miedema Produce Inc.

While the freeze dealt a devastating blow to the Wolverine State’s tree fruit crops, most vegetable crops escaped relatively unscathed and start dates should be close to normal, Miedema said.

The warm March weather didn’t lure Miedema Produce into planting early.

“I don’t care how hot it is in March — we are not putting celery in fields,” he said. “We know a freeze is coming. You just don’t take risks.”

High winds this spring could pose more problems to Michigan vegetable growers than the cold, but as of mid-May Miedema hadn’t heard of serious problems.

The company expects to begin shipping radishes and turnips about June 1, with leafy lettuces and zucchini following about June 20, celery by the Fourth of July and cucumbers by July 4-10.

Miedema Produce expects a similar mix of Michigan vegetables in 2012, Miedema said.

Mussey-based Mike Pirrone Produce Inc. also didn’t take any risks and plant early this season, said Butch DeBlouw, the company’s president.

Even with on-time plantings, however, by late May crops are running ahead of schedule, DeBlouw said.

“It’s as dry this year as it was wet last year, and everybody’s a couple of weeks ahead,” he said. “We feel better this year. Everyone was scrambling last year.”

Pirrone Produce was scheduled to begin harvesting greens, radishes and cilantro the week of May 28, zucchini and yellow squash June 10-12, cabbage June 12-15 and cucumbers June 20-22.

Hart-based Todd Greiner Farms expects to begin its sweet corn season earlier than usual this year, said Tyler Hodges, the company’s sales manager.

It’s the company’s, not Mother Nature’s, decision, Hodges said.

“We usually start in mid- to late August, but we’re starting on Aug. 1 this year to extend the season,” he said.

While it’s pushing up the start date of its Michigan corn deal, Greiner Farms also will have plenty for Labor Day, even if it means having product left over after the holiday, Hodges said.

In addition to shipping more sweet corn this season, Greiner Farms also has plans to boost its zucchini volumes, Hodges said. The company’s acreage climbed from 50 to 60 acres in 2011 to 80 to 90 acres this season.


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