‘Crummy’ summer lamented by most growers, farmers But not all crops hurting

With this summer drawing rapidly to a close, it probably will be remembered by most as one of the dullest, coolest, and wettest in memory.
The below-normal temperatures and above-average rainfall have taken their toll on not only the vacation plans of many, but also on the district harvest.
A trip to the Clover Valley Farmers’ Market here on any given Saturday in August would have shown how the unseasonable weather over the past three months has been reflected in what is—and is not—available there.
CVFM manager Deb Cornell summed it up with one sentence: “The weather has just been so crummy.”
So crummy, in fact, that few people in the district are growing sweet corn this year.
Lowey’s Market Garden and Greenhouse has been selling corn furiously over the past three weekends, but that produce is coming from southern Minnesota, where conditions have been somewhat more conducive to its production.
“I haven’t talked to anybody who has grown their own corn,” Cornell observed.
That may change over the next few weeks, however—provided September turns out at least close to normal.
“Local corn is just coming in, but there is no guarantee of supply,” Cornell said. “I understand Gerbers had some local corn [last weekend], but they are the only ones.”
Corn isn’t the only crop in short supply this summer. Other heat-loving vegetables—such as sweet peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and melons—also are either way behind schedule or just not maturing properly.
“We usually grow acorn squashes, but I’ll be lucky if we get any,” Cornell lamented. “There doesn’t seem to be any supply of pickling cucumbers, either.
“People are placing orders for them, but the supply isn’t there.”
Mark Gerber operates a farm in Crozier and his family is a familiar sight at the CVFM on Saturdays. In addition to eggs, Gerber sells a vast variety of produce, including corn, but things definitely are different this year.
Gerber said he and his brother, Andrew, usually plant a few acres of corn every spring and stagger the plantings so there is a steady supply once it begins to ripen.
This year, however, because of the late spring, he planted it all at once to make up for lost time. Now, what does ripen before the frost all will come in at the same time.
The late planting wasn’t by choice.
“These new hybrids need the soil to be 60-65 degrees [16-18 C] to sprout,” Gerber noted Monday in a telephone interview.
Gerber explained planting decisions often are based on the previous year’s results. Since last summer was so hot and dry, he invested in an irrigation pump and placed an order for another.
But Mother Nature threw him a curve and now the new equipment is sitting idle while his corn struggles to reach maturity.
Gerber also said the weather this year may not have come as a complete surprise to everyone. He recalled a conversation with a neighbour, who, like him, is an immigrant from Switzerland.
“She told me in Europe, they say leap years are always cold years,” he remarked. (And in fact, the summer of 2000 also was cool and wet in many parts of Ontario).
Ever the optimist, Gerber still thinks he can salvage the crop—provided the weather improves. The last few days have seen temperatures closer to normal and if that pattern continues, he feels he’ll be fine.
“I have seen some fine weather in September and into October before,” he remarked.
Gerber also stressed this summer has not been a total washout by any means. Some crops, in fact, have benefited from the weather.
Cabbage, lettuce, potatoes, and peas are thriving—and seem to be avoiding some of the diseases usually associated with hot weather. Potatoes, in particular, are doing well and there should be no shortage of them at the farmers’ market over the next few weeks.
“You see? There’s always two sides to everything, including the weather,” Gerber chuckled.
In related news, there usually is some special feature or event held each Saturday throughout the season at the local farmers’ market.
Last Saturday, for instance, featured a fundraiser for David’s Deli soup kitchen located at the Joy of Life Fellowship Church on Armit Avenue here. Pastor Sandra McEvoy and members of the church were selling corn on the cob for $1, raising $85 for the soup kitchen.
This Saturday, it’s Bulk Honey Day, when Rick Neilson of Seven Bends Honey Farm will be selling the golden nectar for $3/pound (but you must bring your own container).
The Clover Valley Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. through October. It is located on McIrvine Road, just north of Canadian Tire.