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Weeks of rain throughout June have hit farmers across the state hard this year by creating amenable conditions for pests and diseases. Tobacco plants and tomatos are among those crops, although there are some bright spots for fruit.
State Agriculture Commissioner Scott Soares joined us to talk about how crops and farmers are faring across the Commonwealth, and what consumers can expect to see at the farm stand.
Bob Oakes: Tobacco crops are doing poorly, largely because of the cool weather and all the rain. What's happening generally with other crops across the state?
Scott Soares: Well, we're certainly also seeing an impact on other crops across the state. Most specifically what we would expect to see in the early summer months — things like tomatoes, squash — we're seeing some delays in those products hitting the market.
We've also seen some impacts as a result of diseases that are associated with excessively wet weather that we're monitoring very closely at this point.
What's that mean at the farmstand?
Well, we're seeing lesser volume at this point, although we're still seeing quite a healthy volume of a variety of other crops, we're stilll seeing some delays in some of those other, more typically early summer crops.
As I drive by farmstands or roadside stands in Central Mass., where I live, I've seen very few signs for tomatoes and corns this summer.
We're seeing a delay in the tomatoes coming on to the market, and as far as the corn — because of some technology and methodology the farmers used early on, primarily plastics to get crops started earlier — we are seeing a pretty healthy corn harvest at this point.
That's where they put the plastic down over the ground or over the young plants to warm up the soil?
That's correct. And also use a technology, or a methodology I should say, used called raised-bed gardening.
What crops fare well in this kind of weather, which most of us don't like?
Leafy greens have been exceptional this year. We've seen quite a bit of the lettuces, varieties of lettuces — mesculin mix, a variety of those leafy green vegetables — that have come on well.
I've seen more blueberry signs this summer than I think I've ever seen before.
Yeah, that's accurate. We are seeing a bumper crop in blueberry harvest this year. Fortunately, the way the weather came, we did have an exceptional bloom on many of the fruit crops. It gave those crops the opportunity to really fatten up and become a good harvest.
So, beyond the blueberries, is that true for raspberries and blackberries?
We're also seeing raspberries and blackberries coming on pretty strong at this point. They seem to have avoided some of the delays that we've seen for some of the other crops.
What's it mean for tree fruits such as peaches and apples and that sort?
We also, as I mentioned for the blueberries, saw a very good early bloom for the stone-fruit crop, and are seeing many of those come on the market now. One of the concerns it has put out there is that it just takes a little more attention for the farmers to take care of those with the heavier rain that we've been having.
What do you mean by that commissioner?
To make sure that they're treated in a way that it keeps, again, the mold and funguses off of those crops so that they don't get early drop and they don't get those fruits rotting, essentially, on the trees.
So, are we concerned about the apple crop for this fall?
Right now, we're not. We're still seeing quite a bit of volume on the trees, and our hope is that volume will stay up in spite of the rainy weather that we're seeing.
How are the farmers faring, especially those that depend on those crops that are hurting?
We've heard varying reports across the state; it's been localized in some areas, but we are seeing some widespread losses as a result of late blight, which is a disease that's typically around in Massachusetts, but this year has been really exacerbated because of the wet weather that we've seen.
So do you worry that some farmers are going to be driven out of business by this? Are the losses that severe for some farmers who rely on those crops that have been particularly hard hit?
They'll certainly be impacted in an economic sense, but because of the process that our farmers go through and the diversification that we see on our farms across the state, fortunately if one crop fails then we see oftentimes other crops that can come in and still provide an economic opportunity for those farms.
This program aired on August 4, 2009.
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