Mother Nature smiles - BlueStone Press
December 10, 2018
Rondout Ag

Mother Nature smiles

…on the Rondout Valley’s farms and their customers


Flash back to April 2016: The beginning of the month brought a freakish snow and bud-killing frost that affected most, if not all, the farmers of the Rondout Valley. It killed apple, peach and blueberry buds. For some, those crops were completely wiped out.

Flash forward to the present. A combination of enough rain but not too much, a cool spring but not dangerously cool, and a summer thus far without extremes in temperature seems to have resulted so far in a most happy and productive growing season in the Rondout Valley.

Kelder’s Farm in Kerhonkson is one of the places that had to do without a blueberry crop last summer. John Kelder works with his father, Chris, and mother, Jackie.

“Last year was a tough year for the industry. It’s part of farming,” he said, with a true farmer’s resilience. He was happy to report that “the harvest is excellent this year, we have a lot of blueberries, and a lot of other stuff to pick. Hopefully we’ll have a good rest of the year, not too wet and not too dry.”

Kelder has been out of the area for a few years. After going to college and taking some time to experience being somewhere else, he is back. “I just returned this spring to work with my parents, and I’m excited about it. I’m in farming for the long haul,” he affirmed -- good news for the Rondout Valley’s agricultural future.

It was a very wet, cold, late spring,” commented Danny Schoonmaker of Saunderskill Farms in Accord. In spite of that, he thinks that vegetable crops are coming in well now, “pretty much on schedule — corn, beans, tomatoes, peas.” His blueberry bushes have been heavy with fruit, and “looking toward the fall, the apple crop looks super.” Non-farmers may be surprised to learn that, according to Schoonmaker, last year’s slim pickings probably contribute to this year’s abundance.

“When the trees don’t have a lot of fruit on them, they set a lot of fruit for the next year,” Schoonmaker said. “The fruit trees actually set their fruit in late summer for the following year.” The tree will tend to use a lot of energy on the crop that is ripening, and so if it is producing a lot, next year’s buds might not be as numerous. “That’s true of most fruit trees,” he said, and berry bushes, too. Last year, he had no blueberries, but now, “they’re like grapes!” -- which anyone who has been out picking them can affirm. You can almost imagine that Mother Nature decided to relent and make up for her bad behavior.

Bruce Davenport, of Davenport Farm in Stone Ridge, experienced the season a bit differently. “Things are later this year,” he said. “Because of delayed plantings due to wet ground and wet and cool weather, stuff just didn’t grow as fast earlier on. It’s a compressed season. We planted the same amount of acreage but had to do it in a shorter amount of time. It’s going to be like that for everyone in the Northeast,” he said, and predicted that the result may be “gluts on the market,” which would result in lower prices for consumers, perhaps, but would disadvantage the producers. Even a bounteous harvest, then, could have a downside.

For those of us who eagerly anticipate strawberry, peach, blueberry, raspberry, squash, corn, pumpkin, grape and apple season, it’s a time to remember (as we munch the latest ripe produce) that all this abundance is to be savored and not to be taken for granted. Getting all these good things to grow out is a constant process of trying to adapt to weather conditions and make the most of them. It’s not easy; for the farmers whose business it is to roll with Mother Nature’s punches, her smiles must be especially sweet.



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