'Topsy-turvy' weather adds challenges for growers

05/23/2014 10:43:00 AM
Alyssa Klimek

Courtesy North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer ServicesConsumers shop fresh produce at a roadside stand in North Carolina.North Carolina had a wet, cold winter that extended into early spring so fresh produce is running at least 10 days later than usual, said North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

“It was extremely wet a month ago and now it’s dry and hot and we need rain,” said Kendall Hill, co-owner of Tull Hill Farms, Kinston, N.C., and president of the North Carolina Agribusiness Council, Cary, N.C.

Weather issues

Tull Hill has had to abandon some of its lettuce because of tip burn, due to the high temperatures. On the other hand, the low temperatures and wet weather have delayed the planting and growth of the sweet potato plants.

Curtis Smith, operator at T.C. Smith Produce, Seven Springs, N.C., said “the weather has been topsy-turvy and up and down and that’s the way it’s been all spring.”

At T.C. Smith, the cool spring has delayed strawberries by up to 10 days.

Almost everything is behind schedule about two weeks at Clayton Rawl Farms, Lexington, S.C., according to Chris Rawl, president of Clayton Rawl Farms, and it could be longer on some crops.

Steven Ceccarelli, owner of Farm Fresh Produce, Faison, N.C., said that the plants become confused with the inconsistent weather.

“We’ve had very warm and very cold days and that tricks the plant,” Ceccarelli said. “One moment it thinks it’s about to die and one moment it thinks it’s kicking back up for regrowth.”

Farm Fresh has had complications with cabbage bolting and expects to lose about 50% of the crop.

Things are also behind schedule at Jackson Farming Co., Autryville, N.C. Matt Solana, vice president of operations and supply chain, said that the late winter with low temperatures, heavy rains, high winds and cloud cover affected its farms from Florida to North Carolina.

Jackson Farming normally starts strawberries around April 9 and the first harvest this year is April 24. The late winter and wet fields kept Jackson Farming from planting at normal times.

Even though things are behind schedule, Solana anticipates a good season after last year’s 40 inches of rain.

“It took a huge toll and we lost 40% of the melon crop in North Carolina so anything would be an improvement this year,” Solana said.

Although dealing with the cabbage issue, Ceccarelli said that the bell peppers are handling the inclement weather and that this looks like the best bell pepper crop Farm Fresh has had in the last five years.

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