Local farm crops face some stressThe unpredictable spring weather has caused damage to farms and crops throughout St. Croix County.
By: Emily Miels, New Richmond News
The unpredictable spring weather has caused damage to farms and crops throughout St. Croix County.
Ryan Sterry, the agriculture agent for the University of Wisconsin-Extension, said apples, maple syrup and hay have been hit hardest by the sporadic high and low temperatures and rain.
“It’s been a strange year,” Sterry said.
Sterry said extreme high temperatures hit right when the apples were starting to bud and the buds eventually ended up freezing.
According to a press release, Gov. Scott Walker recently requested two federal agricultural disaster declarations, including one for fruit trees.
“Unseasonably hot temperatures in March caused many trees and vines to flower early, but frost conditions in April killed many fruit buds,” the press release states. “Agriculture officials estimate statewide losses could potentially be as high as 80 percent.”
Glenwood Orchard in Glenwood City has approximately 1,300 trees and about 14 different varieties of apples. Owner David Linquist said their apple crop is down significantly.
“We’re probably down to a 20 to 30 percent crop compared to what we saw last year,” Linquist said.
He said though some apples grew, certain varieties that bud earlier did not.
“Some apple varieties, early apple varieties in particular, this year there’s going to be very little if any,” Linquist said.
Sue Daggett, a local farmer who sells her crops at the farmer’s market, said her apple trees were also impacted.
“A couple of trees, we lost all of them,” Daggett said.
Sterry said the extent of the damage to the apple and other fruit trees will not be known until closer to harvest time.
“When talking to the other apple growers this year, especially the guys that have been in it for generations with their families, they’ve never seen anything like this year,” Linquist said.
Despite the decline, Linquist said fall at his farm will remain pretty normal. They will still sell their apples, dehydrated apple rings, cider, baked goods and more.
“When you become short in the primary area you pretty much have to resource other things and pull it together so you have things to go to market with,” Linquist said.
Glenwood Orchard is also a popular destination for school tours, where kids get to experience the orchard, pumpkin patch, train, corn maze and animals. Linquist said he enjoys teaching and working with the kids who visit the farm.
“That kind of gets us through and gets us away from thinking about the poor weather that we’ve had,” Linquist said.
The other disaster declaration made by Walker was in regards to maple syrup production. According to the press release, maple syrup losses were greater than 30 percent.
“For Wisconsin, it’s not even a quarter of what it should be,” Sterry said.
Sterry said that in 2011, Wisconsin produced 155,000 gallons of maple syrup. This year, it was only 50,000 gallons.
“That was a tough one,” Sterry said.
However, fruits and maple syrup were not the only things impacted. Due to the recent heat, Jerry Croes said he lost a substantial amount of milk from his cows.
“The last week I’ve dropped 3,000 pounds of milk because the cows can’t take the heat,” Croes said.
Linquist also mentioned that the bees were impacted and not pollinating like usual.
“The bees in April and early may are typically out doing their thing with the flowers and pollinating,” Linquist said. “But when we started getting those freezing temperatures we also got a bunch of rain and it was real cold. The bees can’t tolerate that and they won’t come out of their hive and pollinate the flowers.”
Both Croes and Sterry said corn is doing fine but expressed concern that the high temperatures may impact the harvest if the crops don’t receive a good amount of rain soon.
“This hot and humid weather could set us back a bit,” Sterry said.
Due to the loss of crops, consumers may see an increase in prices for fresh produce at grocery stores and farmers markets, but Sterry said he doesn’t expect it to be too high.
“I would expect small increases, but if there is enough production in neighboring areas, it should average out,” Sterry said.
Linquist said he estimates they will probably raise prices from 10 to 20 cents per pound.
“The biggest thing is that, as we go through the season, we’re going to sell out of certain varieties,” Linquist said.
Daggett said she is very concerned that if these types of weather conditions and global warming continue to be an issue in the coming years that prices may start to be heavily impacted.
“It’s going to start showing up in stores and prices are going to start going up,” Daggett said.
According to Sterry, the St. Croix County area is doing fine when looking at the entire state of Wisconsin.
“Overall, we’re in better shape than a lot of other parts of Wisconsin,” Sterry said.
Daggett mentioned that her spinach and garlic did really well this season and encouraged farmers not to lose hope.
“I’ve seen it turn around,” Daggett said. “If you do really green and sustainable things, it turns around.”