Wet, cool weather may cause slight harvest delays




Michigan vegetable crops vary from on schedule to a little late due to unseasonably cool temperatures and above-average rainfall.

“We’ve been able to plant on schedule. We had to dodge rain drops off and on, but we were able to get our plantings up to date,” said Dave Miedema, president of Byron Center, Mich.-based E. Miedema & Sons, on May 23.

“However, it’s been cool, and I’d say we’re a little bit behind normal.”

The company grows about 700 acres of sweet corn, about 375 acres of cabbage, 350 acres of fall squash and 30 acres each of zucchini and summer squash, Miedema said.

The company is in its third year producing organic cabbage and squash.

“Typically, we start planting cabbage around the first of April, but we got knocked out to around (mid-April),” Miedema said.

“We’re a little behind, but we got around the rain pretty well.”

Sweet corn was probably a little bit ahead of normal, he said, and the cabbage crop wasn’t affected by a May 8 freeze.

“I’m pretty optimistic about things,” Miedema said.

“I know there have been a lot of problems in other areas, but I’m quite pleased. I just wish it was warmer right now.”

Todd Van Solkema, CEO for Byron Center, Mich.-based Van Solkema Produce, said his company was off to a late start because of the weather.

“I think when we start it will start late, and I think we’ll have some planting gaps throughout,” he said May 25.

Of the company’s many crops, the bulk is in sweet corn, celery, squash and hard squash, Van Solkema said.

Loren Buurma, treasurer and partner for Gregory, Mich.-based Buurma Farms, said it was also a little behind.

“For us, everything looks good,” he said on May 25.

“We got a late start in April and the weather in May has been cool, so we’re a few days behind from last year. But the quality looks very good.”

In Michigan, Buurma Farms grows radishes, parsley, cilantro, beets, collard, mustard and turnip greens, kale, celery and carrots.

Sodus, Mich.-based Leitz Farms LLC’s vegetables are running late, said Fred Leitz Jr., one of four owners.

“Vegetables are going to be a touch late because of the weather — not excessively late, but a few days later than we’ve experienced in previous years. We’ve got some tunnel stuff. I’m going to say cucumbers will be ready June 25.”

Henry DeBlouw, president of Capac, Mich.-based Mike Pirrone Produce, said it seemed that Indiana and Illinois received more rain than Michigan.

“We’re pretty spread out in our farms in Capac,” he said June 1. “The rain has been a little bit of an issue. People are replanting some crops. Some fields with heavier soils are a little wetter.

“It’s starting to dry off, but the question is will it stop raining so we can get some more stuff in the ground,” DeBlouw said. “I think for the most part that we are right on target for what we usually do with our respective items.”

Early season crops for Mike Pirrone Produce are zucchini, yellow squash, cabbage, organic kale and lettuce.

“I’d say all of those things look like their normal starting date,” DeBlouw said.

Jordan Vande Guchte, salesman for Hudsonville, Mich.-based Superior Sales, said it was too early to tell how the complete 2017 crops would fare.

“Last year we had really good weather conditions overall and had a bounty that was beautiful, and that meant low prices and a lot of volume to move,” he said.

“This year, we had a late frost, but (from) all the assessments taken out in the field, it seems we’re faring out well, all things considered.”

Aaron Fletcher, who works in sales and logistics for Hart, Mich.-based Todd Greiner Farms, said May 23 that the frost will have some effect on the company’s apples, peaches and cherries.

“It’s hard to say how negative the effect is yet,” he said. “It certainly didn’t help things.”

Leitz Farms’ apples “down in the southwest are pretty spotty (after the May 8 freeze),” Leitz said.