So much for “knee high by the Fourth of July” — this Independence Day, some farmers are measuring their corn crop in ears.
Typically, the sweet, crunchy cookout favorite is imported from points south in early July, but this summer, local corn is already available at farm stands.
“It’s been years since we’ve had corn on the Fourth,” said Becky Shaul of Shaul Farms in Fultonham in Schoharie County, who credits the early crop to the extended stretch of warm weather the region has experienced.
The corn harvest began June 30 at Shaul Farms, where vegetables have been sold since 1934. Shaul expects to have corn available until just after the first frost.
There’s also corn ready for picking at Gold Krest Enterprises in East Greenbush, where 35 varieties are grown on between 250 and 300 acres. The early crop is available at the farm’s River Road stand and will also be stocked at Hannaford and Price Chopper supermarkets once more of it matures.
Right now, sugar-enhanced corn is what’s being harvested, said owner Chris Webb, adding that there’s usually nothing to pick until the week following the Fourth.
“It’s been a few years, probably five or six, since it’s been this early,” he estimated.
Webb said fair weather allowed him to plant corn two weeks earlier than usual, which was a help.
“Right now we need water pretty bad,” he noted.
Although local fields haven’t seen much rain lately, farmers across the state have been reporting good news about this year’s corn crop, said Steve Ammerman, spokesman for the New York Farm Bureau.
“It has been coming in a bit early, and it’s looking to be a good crop,” he said.
The heat that’s helped to accelerate growth in the Northeast has had the opposite effect in the Midwest, where blistering temperatures, combined with drought, have caused the crop to wither.
According to the June 26 Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin produced by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 56 percent of the nation’s corn crop is in good to excellent condition, down 7 percentage points from the ratings posted the week before and 12 percentage points below the same time last year.
“It’s destroying part of the corn crop there, which is going to continue to drive up corn prices, which is a mixed blessing for New York farmers,” said Ammerman. “Obviously we don’t wish them any ill will out in the Midwest, but corn prices are going to continue to rise and with what’s looking to be a good corn crop here in New York, those prices are only going to help New York farmers.”
The ears aren’t ready for picking yet, but some of the corn plants in the fields at Vincek Farm in Wilton are topped with tassles. They’ve appeared a week or two earlier than usual, said farmer Nathaniel Vincek, who credits the early plant development to the good weather and lack of snow this past winter.
“[Corn] specifically needs so many days of heat and sun,” his mother, Laura Vincek, added. “The conditions have been favorable for corn this year.”
The corn’s only hip-high at Arnoldeyre Farm in Gansevoort, but that’s taller than it usually is this time of year, said Janice Arnold, who has been helping to coax it from the land for the past 42 years. She predicted that the crop will be ready for picking around the first week of August.
“The warm weather has helped. We’ve been fortunate,” she said.