March 24, 2012
Farmers getting early start
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Paul Fouts plows a field Thursday on his farm in the town of Groton. Local farmers are several weeks ahead of their usual schedule.
CORTLANDVILLE — Local farmer John Diescher calls himself a “CBF Farmer” because he grows corn and beans and makes annual trips down to Florida during Cortland’s cold winters.
But Diescher, who owns a 1,500-acre farm on Route 11 in Cortlandville, said he came back from Florida early this year.
He couldn’t pass up the opportunity to plant oats, grass seed and alfalfa crops during this week’s record-setting 80-degree temperatures.
“I can’t say I’ve ever planted this early,” said Diescher, a 50-year veteran of farming in Cortland County. “I’ve seen early springs, late springs — last year was later than late — but nothing really like this.”
Due to unusually mild spring temperatures, Diescher and other farmers are weeks ahead of their typical schedule, plowing soil, planting hay and getting their cold-weather crops into the ground.
“It’s giving them a very, very early start to the season,” said Janice Degni, the field crops specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County.
Local farmers say they are not rushing the season and will wait until mid- to late- April before planting corn and other crops that could be damaged by frost.
The weather in Cortland has hovered in the 70s and 80s throughout the week.
The unseasonably warm temperatures will be replaced by more typical 50-degree temperatures, with a chance of showers off and on throughout next week, according to the National Weather Service in Binghamton.
The early spring comes after last year’s wet weather, when Central New York saw near-record amounts of spring rainfall.
Ithaca had its second wettest April with 7.31 inches of rain. Syracuse had record April rain with 8.53 inches, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University.
The National Weather Service did not have last year’s rainfall totals for Cortland.
Degni said the early start is good, but she worries about apple trees and strawberry plants getting damaged by cold temperatures at night.
She said the early season will help most farmers get a head start on tasks that usually have to wait until April.
Paul Fouts, owner of Fouts Farm in the town of Groton, said he was “planting like mad,” this week, getting his alfalfa, grains, and oats into the ground. He is a few weeks ahead of schedule.
He said he planted most of those crops by the middle of the week, but like Diescher, will wait until mid-April to start thinking about his corn crops.
“It’s something you can’t do much about,” Fouts said of the weather. “We’re doing whatever we can do to get ahead.”
Celest Hall, co-owner of Hall’s Hill Blueberry Farm on Tower Road in Blodgett Mills, said she is not worried about the weather hurting this year’s blueberry crop.
Hall is getting an early start, pruning blueberry bushes, a task that usually waits until May.
She said blueberries are native to North America and would likely be able to withstand any fluctuations between warm and cold weather that might come.
Joan Franklin, of Valley View Farms, said local farmers are used to adjusting to the weather.
“We live in Central New York and anything can happen,” Franklin said. “Anything that you can get in early, you’re so much ahead of the game,”
Diescher said he had no regrets about leaving vacation in Florida for farm work in Cortland.
“You can’t miss this kind of weather,” he said.
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