Weather Patterns

Late Winter, Summer Heat Affecting Area Farms Differently

Pictured is Hickory Hurst Farm in Mayville, where Adrienne Ploss said many of her crops had to be planted later than usual due to a late winter. However, recent summer heat has sped up the growth of some plants. P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

MAYVILLE — This year has had its share of weather-related ups and downs — more like highs and lows — which have caused some area farms to take care of their crops on different schedules than usual.

Hickory Hurst Farm in Mayville is one such farm that fell prey to the late winter with its prolonged snowfall in April, causing crops to be delayed three weeks for planting. Instead of planting in late April or early May, farmer Adrienne Ploss was forced to fill her greenhouse and fields in late May.

Summer heat, however, has appeared to return what the cold took away. Ploss said the near heat wave temperatures of the past weekend and consistent high 80s and 90s have sped up the growth of crops, putting them at approximately the same schedule as they were at this point last year.

The end of June in particular was a scorcher, with a forecast that predicted weather one degree short of a technical heat wave and temperatures that felt like 100 degrees with humidity. Fortunately for farmers, that kind of sun is allowing for crops to flourish.

Ploss is a fourth generation farmer who takes care of cut flowers, herbs, berries such as black raspberries and vegetables including squash, sweet potatoes, red swan beans and onions along with her brother. She is planting more of her crops to catch up after the late winter and spring. Snowfall restricted access to their greenhouse, which collapsed.

Adrienne Ploss picks red swan beans in her greenhouse during a hot summer day. Sue Abers of Abers Acres farm in Kennedy said the heat has made numerous crops come out earlier than normal. P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

That being said, the late winter actually did Hickory Hurst Farm a favor. It killed grubs of the invasive Japanese beetle, an insect that attacks and feeds off of various plants. More nuisance pests than usual like chipmunks and other insects seemed to have taken the place of the Japanese beetle.

Toboggan Hill Farm in Westfield also reacted to the late winter months and summer heat. Planting and harvesting peas happened later than usual. Farmer Donna Eisenstat said they normally try to have lettuce ready this time of the year, but the summer heat has put that off.

It’s not just crops that are affected by the heat, either. Toboggan’s animals need more water than usual to stay healthy, cool and hydrated, and employees working in the garden have been monitored more closely to make sure they don’t overheat in the high temperatures.

Heat accumulation is measured in growing degree-days, the difference between the average daily temperature and a base threshold temperature needed for development. With more growing degree-days in hotter seasons, signs of plant growth such as buds breaking and leaves sprouting may happen earlier.

For Sue Abers of Abers Acres farm in Kennedy, the heat has propelled numerous crops to come out earlier than usual, despite the long winter and late planting. Frequent rain in her area has also helped the season get underway for crops that relish the heat: strawberries, black raspberries, blueberries, lettuce, kale, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes.

Some of the berries at Ploss’ farm.

“Everything’s looking good at our farm,” Abers said. “Berry crops look phenomenal this year.”

Berries are more plentiful, too, since the quick transition from chilly spring to summer meant there were no frosty nights once the berries were in blossom. Usually some die to the frigid spring nights, but this year higher-than-average temperatures have proven fruitful.

Broccoli, cabbage and fava beans are cool-weather crops, so Abers’ plants of these varieties have experienced some blight.

The summer has posed another challenge for Abers Acres. Having to play catch up with a shorter season, workers have also had to contend with more and faster yields thanks to the heat. Abers said it’s a good problem to have, and once managed, Abers Acres was glad to be out of the winter and into the giving summer.