The state of crops for the market [moved from New England board]
With the soggy then humid weather New England has been enduring for the past 2 months, I've been wondering how farmers' crops have been faring and what we are likely to see as we come into the season of New England's bounty in August and September.
The USDA is not freely posting the long weekly state (six-state in the case of New England) summaries on it site, but it offers a shorter digest thereof, and the report issued for last week seems to be more hopeful than I would have imagined. Just in case anyone is interested:
"NEW ENGLAND: Days suitable for field work: 6.4. Topsoil moisture:
4% short, 75% adequate, 21% surplus. Subsoil moisture: 76% adequate,
24% surplus. Pasture condition: 2% poor, 20% fair, 53% good, 25%
excellent. Maine Potatoes: condition excellent/good. Rhode Island
Potatoes: condition good/excellent. Massachusetts Potatoes: condition
good. Maine Oats: condition good/excellent. Maine Barley: condition
good/excellent. Field Corn: 100% planted, 100% 2005, 99% average;
95% emerged, 95% 2005, 99% average; condition good/fair. Sweet
Corn: 99% planted, 95% 2005, 99% average; 95% emerged, 95% 2005,
99% average; condition good/fair. Shade Tobacco: 5% harvested, 10%
2005, 5% average; condition fair/good in Connecticut and good in
Massachusetts. Broadleaf Tobacco: condition good/fair. First Crop Hay:
80% harvested, 85% 2005, 90% average; condition good/excellent in
Rhode Island, fair/poor in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont,
and good/fair elsewhere. Second Crop Hay: 10% harvested, 20% 2005,
25% average; condition good/excellent. Apples: Fruit size average;
condition good. Peaches: <5% harvested, 0% 2005, 0% average; Fruit
size average; condition fair/good in Connecticut and good elsewhere.
Pears: Fruit size average; condition fair/poor in Connecticut and good
elsewhere. Strawberries: 95% harvested, 95% 2005, 95% average; Fruit
size average; condition poor/good in Connecticut, good/excellent in New
Hampshire and Maine, and good/fair elsewhere. Massachusetts
Cranberries: Petal Fall, condition good/fair. Highbush Blueberries: 20%
harvested, 10 2005, 10% average; Fruit size above average in Maine,
average/above average in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and average
elsewhere; condition good/excellent. Maine Wild Blueberries: Fruit size
below average/average; condition excellent. Warm, sunny conditions
rolled over from the weekend into Monday providing farmers another day
to work the fields. By Tuesday, rain arrived into the region and remained
until Thursday, thus limiting field work activities. By week’s end, sunshine
and humid conditions lingered over the region. Farmers took advantage
of the hot, humid weekend to plant and harvest crops. Major farm
activities included: planting and re-planting sweet corn, field corn, and
vegetables, chopping haylage and baling hay, spreading manure,
harvesting beets, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, greens, lettuce, peas,
radishes, summer squash, and strawberries, spraying protective
fungicides, side dressing and fertilizing fields, cultivating, mowing weeds,
working in greenhouses, and scouting for pests."
All well and good, but the farmers who come to our farmer's markets are not here in advance of their crops being ready; many participating farms are not generalists in crops covering all the seasons. So the guy who's selling me lettuce now has no clue how the farmer who sells apples 2 months from now might be doing. And, if I am driving through orchard country where the stands aren't open for the season, I am sure not gonna go runniing around trying to interrupt them at work. Geesh.
re: Karl S
The seasons are the seasons. And except for certain mild variances, they are the most important predictor of ANY upcoming harvest. Any atypical planting season, one with widely varying charastics, will gurantee an atypical harvest. Given that many local farmers could not even get into the ground, when they ordinaily do, or those who did, were being washed out, we can surmise with certainty, that native, local harvests, will not only be off this year, it will not be of the QUALITY, one expects of local farm producers. It simply cannot be helped.
Be that as it may, local farms and farmstands will still be the ONLY place to find anything halfway decent.
I believe the county extension agents or similar contacts are involved in collecting information by survey. The longer versions of the reports that used to be available online in prior years had quotes from the county contacts and discussed what was selling at stands and markets.
Information I look for include condition of fruit and size: big may be good for increasing the weight for the farmer, but not the taste for the consumer. As many know from experience, excessive rain in the mid-summer usually makes for big, bland vegetables and fruit, while a fair bit of dryness can make for smaller, tastier fruit. Some years, corn is just big and watery, and other years, corn is tight and tasty. Can't get a sense for what this season might hold; I do know that corn height and silking is understandably behind schedule because many had to be replanted in late spring. I find the reports helpful to get a sense of when and whether to go traversing farms for certain things.
I wouldn't bother reading a regional report. Soil conditions and growing techniques vary too much. For example, a friend's parents own a farm stand that is out of the way for me but she reports a good selection of vegetables right now including early corn. OTH a nearby family farmstand is only listing summer squash and tomatos. I'm going to take the extra time and miles to visit her parents' place. Earlier reports of soil conditions and flooding on some farms predicted their vegetables would be late this year. They lost several plantings and then it was too wet to plant. The two farms are within 30-45 minutes of each other. Word of mouth is probably your best guide.
Karl S, do you have a link to the source of the report you offered? I searched around a bit and quickly became lost in a myriad of convoluted USDA reporting, including anything and everything from pork bellies to shade tobacco harvest data. Yours, by comparison, is brief and easy-reading! Would love source for future reference.
Puts me in mind of those Saturday mornings, a good while back, where us five kids would be sitting all crowded on the sofa, up at 5:45am or so, just waiting for Clutch Cargo and the cartoons, and would catch the tail-end of the daily agriculture report. We lived in farming country, and while we weren't directly involved, it was kind of like reading the cereal box: "more information, please, it's never enough," so we all sat there, silently engrossed.