EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 19, 2013

Rain delay: Weather has frustrated local farmers

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — If he was forced to pick between a drought and a deluge, Scott Johnson of Highland Farms in Windham would pick a drought every time.

“It’s a lot easier to add water, then take it out,” Johnson said.

But lots of rain is what Johnson and other farmers have had to deal with this month.

Concord has seen 4.83 inches of rain fall already in June, according to meteorologist Steve Capriola of the National Weather Service. Capriola said the total is more than double the average rainfall at this time of the month. The total already makes it the 29th wettest June in the 146 years they have been keeping track.

Farmers don’t expect the heavy rains to impact the crops they will produce this year, but they do expect a delay.

“The fields are so wet now that we can’t get things planted,” said Phil Ferdinando, co-owner of J&F Farms in Derry. “Things are going to end up being later this year.”

He mentioned corn and vine crops such as cucumbers and squash as those most affected.

Ferdinando said most of the crops previously planted were doing well, but not everyone is as fortunate.

John Peters of Peters Farm in Salem said he has had to replant and refertilize because of the rain.

“We lost a few growing days for sure,” Peters said. “But we did well in April and May, so it all really ends up evening out.”

Dan Hicks of Sunnycrest Farms in Londonderry was hoping to open U-pick strawberries last week, but the rain delayed his opening until today.

Despite the setbacks, he is staying optimistic about this year’s crop.

“I expect there will be some (negative) impact, but I’ve been amazed before,” he said. “As farmers, we never want to be negative. But it does get to you in a year like this.”

Johnson said he plants his corn about once a week. But in the last two weeks, the soil has just been too muddy.

“That’s why we want to start as soon as we can, because we only plant until mid-July,” he said. “I think things will end up evening out and our second half will be stronger than our first half.”

For Mike Cross of Mack’s Apples in Londonderry, the rain has been beneficial.

“They like the water,” he said. “It’s looking like a good crop this year of apples and peaches.”

But his pumpkins are a little delayed.

“The rain has hindered them out in the field,” Cross said. “We are about a week to 10 days behind where we usually are.”

Gail McWilliam Jellie, New Hampshire director of agricultural development, said it isn’t a big issue statewide just yet, but it could become one.

“If the rain continues, we could have some issues,” she said. “But one of the fun things about agriculture is how it depends on the weather. We just hope everything evens out in the long run.”

Cooler weather hasn’t helped things either.

“The cold is just so tough,” Johnson said. “It slows down the growth of the plant and makes it tough to germinate.”

Things could be looking up soon though. Capriola said clear skies and temperatures in the 70s are expected today and tomorrow, with only a slight chance of showers on Friday and Saturday.