SODUS, Mich. — Michigan growers may have had an early start this year, but a cool May with a couple near-freezing nights brought them back to about a normal schedule — a few weeks ahead of last year.
“We had a real nice warm start in March and thought, ‘Whoa, we’re going to get a real nice jump,’” said Todd Miedema, director of marketing for Miedema Produce Inc., Hudsonville. “Then it got cool, and we’re probably back to normal. If anything, with the cool, wet weather we’ve had, we’re probably running a little behind on things.”
Either way, the state is off to a better start than it got last year.
“We had an extremely warm April, perfect conditions for planting. Last year was the opposite,” said Dave Miedema, president of E. Miedema & Sons Inc., Byron Center. “In May, the weather kind of reversed itself.”
Dave Miedema said he was on track for one of the earliest sweet corn crops he’s had in years, but is now back to about normal.
“This year, by the first of May, we already had over half of our plastic laid,” said Fred Leitz Jr., a partner in Leitz Farms. “Last year we started plastic May 4.”
Cucumbers, tomatoes and cantaloupe were already out in the fields, with a lot of planting going on the week of May 17.
Things were busy at Russell Costanza Farms. After almost a week straight of rain, the company was trying to get as many crops out into the fields as possible to make up for lost time.
Yellow squash and peppers were headed from the greenhouses to the fields to finish growing May 19, and more cucumbers, tomatoes and eggplant were set to be in the ground within a week, said Russell Costanza, owner. The company also grows eggplant and hot peppers.
The company did its first planting of cucumbers May 2, and planted tomatoes May 5-6, just before the state hit near-freezing temperatures the weekend of May 9.
“We got real close a couple nights there on temperatures down to 33,” Costanza said.
E. Miedema & Sons lost about 30 acres of sweet corn, Dave Miedema said.
“However, our cabbage doesn’t show any effects of the frost and we are going to be pretty early on cabbage,” Dave Miedema said.
He hopes to harvest cabbage in mid-June, about 10 days early for the vegetable that usually harvests in Michigan late in the month.
Asparagus didn’t come out quite so lucky, and many Michigan asparagus growers lost their earliest asparagus plantings this year, helping lead to the high asparagus prices around the country this spring and early summer.
“There were two freezes here that forced growers to mow after them,” Todd Miedema said in late May. “Right now it’ll be the first of next week before we have a decent volume. That’s very, very late.”
Radishes were also a couple weeks behind in late May, Todd Miedema said. The company ships radishes year-round, with Michigan filling the gap June through October.
“We started packing some radishes this week, but it’s kind of a slow go because of the weather,” said Jerry Van Solkema, president of Byron Center-based Van Solkema Produce Inc. on May 21. “It wasn’t a consistent supply.”
Michigan asparagus usually wraps up by the end of June.
Costanza said he’ll be finished planting his vegetables by the end of June, and will have vegetables through mid-October.
Much of his product is marketed through SMP Marketing, Greenfield, Tenn., and ends up on the shelves of retail chains, including Spartan Stores, Meijer, Supervalu, Kroger and Aldi.
“The lake effect gives us a few extra days in the spring and the fall,” Costanza said.
After the early asparagus and radishes, strawberries are the first Michigan crop to hit the market in early June.
Cucumbers are next up, in mid- to late June, around the same time as squash, cabbage and leaf items.
By the first of July, Michigan celery should hit the market, said Gary Wruble, general manager of the Hudsonville-based Michigan Celery Promotion Cooperative. The state should have celery through October.
Tomatoes were set to harvest around July 20 for Russell Costanza Farms, followed by eggplant and hot peppers the following week.
Leitz Farms should have cantaloupe by mid-July, along with grape tomatoes, with the romas and round tomatoes to follow a week or two later.
“The (July) 25th on through the end of September it’ll be wide open,” Costanza said. “We’ll pack 7,000 to 10,000 packages per day, hopefully.”
E. Miedema & Sons should be harvesting sweet corn by July 20, Dave Miedema said. Zucchini should get going in late June, as well.
The tomato market has been a little too unstable this spring and early summer for Leitz’s liking, he said.
“It’s better to be steady,” Leitz said. “But we’ve got the Carolinas, Tennessee and Kentucky all before us. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Arkansas.”
Bruce Klamer of celery grower V&W Farms, Byron Center, said he increased acreage this year in hopes for a better celery market.
“Last year the summer was not a high point. The markets were very depressed,” Klamer said. “I hope it’s not just optimism, but I think it’s going to be better than last year.”