A stretch of heavy rain and cool temperatures in mid-May pushed back the start of Ohio vegetable production by several days for some growers, leaving them hoping to catch up in June with a return to warm weather.
“A cold spell in April or the first of May is one thing,” said Scott Michael, president of Urbana, Ohio-based Michael Farms. “Get one in the middle of May, and you’ve lost a lot of potential. When your average is 75 degrees and you end up with 55 for the week, that’s a big difference. In April you haven’t lost as much.”
That was enough to delay the expected start of green beans, the company’s biggest crop, from the typical June 20 to June 26. Sweet corn is due July 14.
“Everything is just a little later than usual,” he said, including cabbage.
Willard, Ohio-based Buurma Farms Inc. kicked off its season with bunched and cello-packed radishes May 26.
Radishes are Buurma’s main crop. The company anticipated production of cilantro, dill, turnip and mustard greens by the first week of June, co-owner Loren Buurma said May 19. Collards, kale, green onions and parsley varieties will follow.
“We always have a short season, so it just makes the season that much shorter,” Buurma said of the May weather disruption. His operation typically goes into October.
Buurma Farms expects leafy greens — romaine, boston and leaf lettuce, escarole and endive — to start peaking in mid-June.
Willard, Ohio-based Wiers Farm Inc., which also grows lettuce, was running three to seven days behind usual start dates. The company markets under the Dutch Maid label,
“We just seem to get a half inch (of rain) at a time that keeps the ground a little too moist for doing some of the field work,” said Ben Wiers, president. “But we’ve been able to get in on and off, so we do have supplies out there. It’s not quite the quantities we normally would like, but due to the cooler weather it probably would have bunched up and grown too close together anyway.
“If we get some good heat units here in the next month we should be able to play some catch-up on the harvest dates.”
Ken Holthouse, general manager of North Fairfield, Ohio-based Doug Walcher Farms and chief financial officer of Holthouse Farms, said volumes can rise surprisingly quickly.
“Three years ago we got out late, by the middle of June, and had the best crop we had in 10 years,” he said. “It all depends on what the weather does after you get out.”
Jim Mullet, manager at Mount Hope, Ohio-based Farmers Produce Auction, said some growers saw a light frost May 18, but rain was the real problem.
“We’ve had it real wet here the last two weeks,” Mullet said May 22. “There’s not much damage that we can tell, but they are not getting into (the fields) right now.”
That was true even for Amish growers — prime suppliers to Ohio auctions — who have no tractors to get bogged down in mud.
“Usually the Amish get in quicker than the tractor guy can, but they have not been doing much because they could not get in,” Mullet said. Nevertheless a warming trend was in the immediate forecast, he said, and early crops looked good.
A return to warm weather wouldn’t be the only boost for Ohio vegetable production. Frank Cangemi, owner and buyer at Solon-based Miles Farmers Market, expects to see more acreage planted east of Cleveland this year, largely by Amish growers.
“We lost several farmers a few years back because of bad returns,” Cangemi said. “Now they’re coming back or new guys are coming in. There’s definitely more interest in growing.”
Those summer crops will include tomatoes, beans, squash and peppers. In the fall it’ll be hard squash, pumpkins and the like.
“New guys and old guys are going to be producing more stuff right now,” Cangemi said. “Maybe because the markets were good last year and they saw guys involved making money. So they decided to jump in. They go where the money is at.”
Doug Walcher Farms favors a comparatively incremental approach to expansion — 25%, for one, on summer squash. Where the money is at remains something of a mystery to Holthouse.
“It doesn’t take much of a change in supply to change demand,” Holthouse said. “We don’t want to just double everything because we think last year we could have sold it. Everybody could have sold more last year, because the weather was so bad in Ohio.”
Hail and heavy rains marred the 2013 season. That dropped zucchini and yellow squash yields at Wiers Farm to 60% of target — a fate the grower hopes to avoid this year.
Swanton, Ohio-based Bettinger Farms Inc., a specialist in sweet corn, expects to start July 20, but that depends on a warm June, Don Bettinger, president, said May 20. Almost 85% of the company’s corn ships to Florida and Publix through broker Merchants Distributors Inc.