December 19, 2014

Weather causes problems in produce supply for farmers markets

Farmers who grow the state’s two major crops of soybeans and corn have faced a slow start to planting with a cool spring, flooding, wind storms, and dry spells. Those same conditions have also impacted smaller-scale farmers who supply the state’s farmers markets.

Joe Bohr of the Cedar Falls Farmers Market says the conditions have not been good for growing vegetables. He says some areas of southeast Iowa have gotten practically no rain and the crops have burned up.

“Here, quantity is down a little bit,” Bohr says, “items like tomatoes, have all ripened at once.” Vendor Greg Hoffman of Waterloo says he considers himself lucky with what he’s heard from other areas of the state.

Hoffman says people in Black Hawk County have been pretty fortunate. He says he talked to someone who had been in the Muscatine area who was looking for muskmelons, but they just weren’t available a this time. In Benton County, Jim Osborne saw thunderstorms cause problems for his vegetable fields.

“Yeah it ain’t a very good year..we had hail earlier, it hailed for over an hour, about the size of golf balls, it stripped the tomatoes and peppers off,” Osborne says. He didn’t think the peppers and tomatoes would come back, but they have, and they’ve finally started picking them.

If the hail damage wasn’t enough to endure, the lack of rain this month left his greenbeans a shell of what they should have been.

He says the greenbeans look good and they’d probably be 200 bushel an acre if they were good.”But they’re hollow, you could sell them once, and you’d probably never sell anymore,” he said and laughed.

Osborne says every week he discs up a half acre of the useless beans. Cool, wet weather in the northern part of the state near the Minnesota border delayed crop growth. Karl Milliron of Albert Lea, Minnesota says while the produce was delayed in maturing the demand didn’t ease.

Milliron says they was higher sales in the North Iowa Farmers Market in all categories, with some vendors reporting sales increases of 25 to 35% higher than last year at this time. The demand shows how the “buy local” trend has picked up steam.

The U.S.D.A. says over one thousand new farmers markets were started nationwide this year.