March 20

Everybody’s big question is “Is this an early  spring?”  Gardeners are all fired up. Even one of my farmer friends is tempted to plant some peas just to get bragging rights (and he may look pretty clever  with his early peas for market if they dont rot in the ground first…)   Its interesting as a grower to have  gardeners come up to me  and ask the question, like I am privy to some fountain of information that they don’t have access to. I like Jake Guest’s response fashioned with a rhetorical question: ” So,what’s an early Spring? Three nights in May with nightime temperatures in the low twenties?”   So my response is pretty much tempered: go outside, pickup the  sticks off the lawn and rake the dog turds around. Do some pruning and have some fun but dont  get your water hot about seeding lettuce this weekend in the garden or come by early to get your plants from the greenhouses. April can be a long month, and I can remember being called back to work as a ski patrolman during that month just when I thought I was going to put my skis away  and trade them for the summer tractor.

But the focus on the weather does bring up the question of Global Warming in any weather  discussion. Forty nine of the fifty states in the Union  had snow this year. Its pretty interesting when you are looking at the  nightly news and see that the Dallas airport is closed because of snow. There are many politicos who pander to the assumption that these particular weather events point  to the fact that there is NO global warming, otherwise how could there be snow in Shreveport, Louisiana?  In our little world of agriculture we first got our first information about global warming from some of our University Extension Educators. They had  been attending seminars and reported  back to us at trade and educational meetings that Global Warming was not a hoax, the facts showed it to be happening and how it was happening. Verne Grubinger, a Vermont Extension specialist reported to us that there was a general forecast for New England and it was this:  Winters would be warmer, summers would be cooler and wetter. He also went further to say the climatologists   forecast  that the natural habitat for our native sugar maple will, in  a century’s time, will move north to Labrador.  Plus, storms and fronts  that result from changes in weather systems would be much more violent and dramatic.  Owtch!

After four years, I am inclined to think Verne missed his call as a meteorologist, because things seem to be bearing out just like he said they would,  at least  in my world. And we farmers spend a lot of time thinking about the weather and its ramifications. Any of  us boomers can remember growing up with longer ski seasons and snowier, colder winters,especially those of us who ski and long for the good old days.  Maine just logged either its warmest winter on record, despite the snow in Shreveport. I may not live to see the forest ecosystem change,but we can certainly document the extreme nature of the summer  thunderstorms. Ask Steve Wood or Poverty Lane Orchards or Matt Patch of Walahowden Farm about the  increasing  frequency of hail  events. I know we live in constant fear of a hail storm. Ask David Pierson of Pierson Farm what hail can do to a vegetable farm. I went up after an event decimated his home farm and  it looked like a battlefield…..greenhouse plastic shredded  and  the fields looked  a standing army had marched through shooting peppers and watermelons with shotguns.  The   2nd longest tornado  trail on record in the continental US occurred three summers ago in  NewHampshire-something like a path of 37 miles,which went right through Peter Van Berkums wildflower nursery in Deerfield  and toppled trees, ruined greenhouses and carried off a golf cart.  How about wetter summers? The last two summers have broken records as well.

Farmers and  growers are now dealing with pests and diseases that  were unheard of in our neck of the woods twenty years ago. Leaf hoppers showing up in June. Downy mildew in vine crops. Late blight of tomatoes and potatoes…ok,but in July? Squash vine borer?  These were all things that were common in the Mid Atlantic states, and now they are arriving in New England like an unwanted house guest.

Rush Limbaugh told me global warming is  a Greenie hoax.  Maybe he knows something ,I dunno……  but something weird is going on with the weather…

Feb 28 2010

Things have been very busy since my last blog. There has been some movement in response to the proposed federal food safety regulation that has been heartening. A particular senator actually  solicited some input from  some of us smaller growers  and recently the Hanover Consumer Coop urged its membership to  contact their senators   and  representatives with their concerns about the effects of the legislation (as written thusfar) upon thier local farms and  as well as their local food supply. So I wont belabor the discussion other than to say that it would be helpful if you are concerned as well to contact your legislator. Can’t hurt to be heard, and the stakes are significant.

So this week  the “rattle and hum” of the farm gets turned up a  notch. The crew is being assembled, people  are collecting at the farm to get underway for the 2010 season. Liz and I have been busy taking vegetative cuttings of  various ornamentals while Mike has sowed the onions for the field. I have been seeding perennials for the greenhouses and Liz and I grafted the  first batch of greenhouse tomatoes last Friday (350 plants). Later this week  we will open greenhouses to pot up the first of the incoming rooted cuttings and liners. Mike and Ray will fire up the soil potting machine and the peat dust will  return to the shelves we worked on  all winter to clean up.  There will be plenty more gray,damp,snowy,muddy days but this week we definitely will turn the corner on spring.