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What you need to know for 08/23/2017

Growing season yields mouthwatering bounty


Growing season yields mouthwatering bounty

The apple trees are sagging under the weight of heavy fruit, and a lot of the corn these days is tal
Growing season yields mouthwatering bounty
Autumn Carpenter of Stillwater helps a customer with fresh vegetables at a farmers market in Ballston Spa on Thursday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

The apple trees are sagging under the weight of heavy fruit, and a lot of the corn these days is taller than an NFL lineman.

Zucchini, as it always seems to be, is plentiful at farm stands and farmers’ markets. So are ripe tomatoes.

The harvest season is reaching full stride across the Capital Region and upstate New York, with most areas reporting a better-than-average growing season, thanks to a Goldilocks summer.

“Overall, just talking to a number of farmers, they’ve been very pleased with the growing season,” said Steve Ammerman, spokesman for New York Farm Bureau.

The New York Apple Association is reporting it will be a better-than-average year, with growers expected to produce 30 million bushels of McIntosh, Empire and other apple varieties. Quality is expected to be high.

New York trails only Washington state as a U.S. apple producer, with a 2012 crop that was worth $250 million, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Corn, meanwhile, has come along well in the late summer, even though some heavy storms in the spring delayed planting in a lot of farm fields. Ag and Markets says the state is the nation’s No. 4 producer of sweet corn, with $68 million in production annually.

“The one thing I’ve heard is we could use some more warm weather days to bring some of the corn that was planted late to maturity,” Ammerman said.

Every growing season is different, and it hasn’t been unusual in some years for crops like apples and peaches to be damaged by late spring frosts and gusty storms. In 2012, the Capital Region apple crop was only a fraction of its usual size because a warm spring led to an early blossom, which was followed by a killing frost. The industry rebounded, however, with a record 32 million-bushel apple crop last year. This year looks above-average.

“It was a good spring for apples because it was a late spring,” said Kevin Bowman of Bowman Orchards in Clifton Park, where pick-your-own began last Thursday and will continue through about Halloween.

This summer has seen storms that mostly brought steady rain, not the deluges of some other years, said Bowman, whose farm also grows peaches, pears and various berries.

“The berry crop has been good,” he said.

Some other berry farmers, however, have had to cope with a new pest, the Asian fruit fly, that destroys their fruits. Cornell Cooperative Extension has estimated the statewide losses from the fly at $5 million.

Looking ahead, the outlook for fall pumpkins is good, though it’s early yet — despite what purveyors of pumpkin spice lattes might tell you.

“[Farmers] say conditions have been good for pumpkins. There will be plenty of pumpkins,” Ammerman said.

Trouble spots

Not that the year has been without weather-related problems.

Saratoga County farmers are potentially eligible for disaster emergency loans based on the excessive rain, flash flooding and high winds that occurred July 3-8. The federal Farm Service Agency issued the declaration last month, making loans available to farmers who lost at least 30 percent of their crops.

Western New York counties also saw severe storm damage in the spring that affected farm fields, and farmers there also are eligible for federal disaster assistance.

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