A cold, wet spring hits all growers hard.
But when you don’t have access to electricity, and a healthy chunk of your success relies on greenhouse production, chilly temperatures and sunless skies become even more ominous.

We’re not talking growers who have trouble paying the power company on a regular basis. The Amish of Knox County, Ohio, choose not to use electricity.

And yet, despite the somewhat sluggish start, by late May things were looking up for the Amish, now in their fourth year of growing vegetables in Knox County, said Troy Cooper, extension agent.

“The cold has been our big hurdle this spring,” he said. “There were a few problems in the starts with the greenhouses, but they’re overcoming it and getting going.”

Rhubarb production in Knox County was winding down in late May, with radishes and peas expected to begin harvesting in early June, Cooper said. Asparagus production kicked into high gear about mid-May, he said.

Frost set back the county’s tomato and sweet corn growth, but by late June or early July, harvest should be underway, he said.

About 30 new acres are being devoted to produce in Knox County this year, with production spread out fairly evenly among the county’s vegetable staples, which also include beans, onions and peppers, Cooper said.

The Amish sell their vegetables at an auction that is held twice a week in May, three times a week in the heart of summer. Four years ago, at its inception, the market drew between 50 and 75 people a day.

Now, it’s more like 200 to 300, Cooper said.

“It’s building every year, and there are more large wholesale buyers now,” he said. “It’s still amazing to us.”

Local retailers and nearby Kenyon College are among the regular customers of the auction, Cooper said.

Among the trends this year at the auction are demands for more peppers, Cooper said.

“I talked to the market manager yesterday and buyers were begging for more peppers,” Cooper said May 28. “That’s where the shortage is.”

In future years, maybe that will mean not only more bell acreage but also an investment in jalapeno, poblano and Hungarian wax peppers, as well. Cooper said hot pepper acreage is not currently a priority of the Amish.

“Once they find something that works, they tend to stick with it,” Cooper said of the Amish’s conservative growing approach.

In a nod to demand, however, there will be a few more red onions produced this year in Knox County, Cooper said.
Onions begin making their appearance at the auction in July and August, he said.