By Astrid Cook
It’s been the winter that wasn’t, and unprecedented warm temperatures are affecting local farms—and, in turn, the produce available at local greenmarkets.
Farmers are struggling to keep up with their supply; workers are busy transferring lettuces from greenhouses to outdoors, for example, while fully blossoming orchards are being prepped for an early fruit season.
The result is a boon for greenmarket shoppers accustomed to rooting through root vegetables in March. But this bounty comes at a price.
For one thing, warmer temperatures mean increased risk of insect infestation. Few days this winter were below freezing, meaning many insects survived into spring—a particularly troubling problem for organic farms. “I’ve already seen aphids,” said Healthway Farms farmer Joseph O’Brien as he sold fully grown herbs from his stand at McCarren Park in Greenpoint on a recent Saturday.
His more immediate concern, however, is drought. “The problem we’re seeing is a lack of moisture; everything is way ahead of itself (in the growth cycle), meaning more dryness in the soil.”
The maple syrup industry has seen yields reduced by as much as 50 percent owing to warm weather. At the Woodhomestead Maple Syrup tent in Union Square Market, Jessica Vanglad noted that the season wrapped up by the first week of March. “Anyone who got a late start didn’t get enough sap,” she said.
Another obvious concern for growers is a late-spring frost. Paula Lutkas, Just Food’s CSA in NYC Program Manager, explains, “Warm weather at this time of year can be seducing to farmers and tempt them to push their spring planting earlier than they usually would. While this can give them a head start if all continues to go this way, it also can be risky.”
What are you seeing at area greenmarkets that seems surprising for this time of year?
Image of cherry blossoms in Peter Cooper Village last week by Flickr user Matt Green. Other images by author Astrid Cook.