Love NJ produce? Long winter has farmers on hold
The spring growing season in Jersey has been delayed a bit, as farmers wait for their soggy fields to dry out from all the snow and rain we’ve had over the past several weeks.
“We really need some sunny days to get some of the moisture out of the fields and to warm up the soil,” Pete Furey, the executive director of the New Jersey Farm Bureau, said.
Furey said right now, many farmers are focusing on growing flowers and starting vegetable plants in greenhouses. Then at the start of next month the vegetables will be transplanted outside.
"You’ll see some of your green crops — the cold, hearty crops, spinach and lettuce and cabbages and so forth, and that comes out of the fields first for the consumers," he said.
He said once the fields dry out and the soil warms up a bit, the spring growing season can get going.
"Asparagus is one of the perennial crops that comes up, and when you see the asparagus come up, you know the spring is underway," Furey said.
He noted during the last few weeks of winter, greenhouse activity picks up markedly. But before the outdoor growing season can begin, the field conditions have to be just right.
Furey noted the ornamental plants like tulips that are growing in greenhouses right now will “cheer people up and get them ready for sunny, nicer weather so they can spend time outside.”
He said the colder we’re having this early spring actually is a protection for fruit trees, delaying the budding process so the trees won’t wind up facing cold snap later that could damage them.
Kurt Alstede, who runs Alstede Farms in Chester, said greenhouses are now "bursting with plants" that will go into fields in a few weeks.
"Whether the fields are going to be ready is the other question," he said.
He said while everybody on in a holding pattern right now, some warmer weather in April could make up for the cold weather now. So "consumers may not see any difference on the supermarket shelf or at the farm stores," he said.
Alstede said once the fields dry out and the soil warms up a bit farmers will start planting cold crops — broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, collards, and so on. The same thing is true for lettuces and greens, he said.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com