The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

Local News

December 28, 2012

Agricultural angst

Medina Journal-Register — As the waters of the Erie Canal drained away, another source of hydration for parched fields of green disappeared, adding to harshly dry and hot conditions for local farms. In a year of almost-biblical plagues it was just one more challenge for those who feed our communities.

“It’s part of farming, anything can happen,” Orleans County Farm Bureau President Gary Kludt said that week.

It felt like everything did happen in a year where days heavy with work and minds filled with hope were needed to ensure a reduced crop did not turn into a calamity. Local farmers came through, not only bringing a great deal of produce to market but also to the charitable endeavors that benefit from their patronage.

The growing season began early, when a stretch of perfect summer weather arrived in mid-March. The early blossoms on apple and other fruit trees didn’t stand much of a chance when the more seasonable but inhospitable conditions returned.

There was a wait-and-see approach taken when the frost returned, but a month later, when Representative Kathy Hochul visited a Charles Pettit’s Medina farm the results were in. He showed off buds that came in too early and would not bear fruit, and those that had survived.

Many farmers reported that their yield was significantly down, with the weather to blame. What did grow came in as much as a month early.

“It’s like July at the end of May,” Dave Coulter said as a disappointing berry crop was harvested.

At the Orleans County Farmers Markets, the message to shoppers picking up berries, cherries and peaches was to buy what you liked now — it may not be here next week.

As the growing season, the real one, arrived, so did an invasion of armyworms. The bugs bite, the worst in two generations, swept through the area with rapid movement. The inch-long larvae had an insatiable appetite for wheat, tall grasses, corn and even lawns.

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