This year looks to provide growers with more normal weather despite early high temperatures, but lingering effects of last year still remain for many growers.
“This year is a little more normal compared to last year with the amount of rain and the two hurricanes we had last year,” said Andrew Gurda, owner at A. Gurda Produce Co. Inc., Pine Island, N.Y.
“So far everything seems to be OK, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope to not see any more devastating storms.”
Rebuilding after storms
Last year, Empire State growers reported damage and delayed harvests because of the storms and extreme amounts of rainfall. Those negative effects can translate to some lingering financial issues.
“We’re bouncing back from that now, and we want to try to optimize the dollars to pay off last year’s debt,” Gurda said.
Jessica Ziehm, spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, said she has seen a lot of rebuilding since last year’s devastation.
“We’re very diligent and persistent here in New York. We’re a tough breed, and the areas that were hit hard last year are working hard to rebuild,” she said.
Ziehm listed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Agricultural and Community Recovery Fund as a tool that helped growers rebuild. The funds helped rebuild the agricultural industry in farming areas effected by Hurricane Irene.
“Our farmers are back in action this year, and everyone is full steam ahead,” she said.
Ziehm said the support of local communities helped growers get back on their feet for this season.
“The public recognizes the hardships they’ve had and have been extremely supportive,” she said. “Local communities have really rallied around the agriculture community in New York state.”
Problems with pests
Another issue many growers face this year is additional insects and other pests because of the exceptionally mild winter.
“We have scouts that we work with through Cornell (University), and they’ll come to spot a specific problem,” said Dave Walczak, sales and operations manager at Eden Valley Growers Inc., Eden, N.Y.
“Then we treat only in the area needed, but we are doing that a lot more often than in the past,” Walczak said.
“We didn’t have a cold winter here, so we are concerned about insect pressure, but we’ll just have to wait and see,” said Maureen Torrey, vice president of Torrey Farms Inc., Elba, N.Y.
Torrey said the additional insects require growers to be more proactive in watching for signs of the pests to catch problems as early as possible.
“We’ll be scouting the fields more often and just have to do our due diligence. We follow strict guidelines, and you certainly can’t be caught sleeping,” she said.
Tim Richards, sales manager for Gill Corn Farms Inc., Hurley, N.Y., says the problem of pests isn’t a new one.
“That’s been going on for 75 years, that and the birds, and we just have to combat it as best we can,” Richards said. “We do have the spray, and we use it as little as possible, but we don’t want any insect problems.”