The unseasonably warm temperatures we’ve had thus far this year pushed some produce to become ready long before traditional farmers’ markets open for the season. Iowa Department of Agriculture horticulturist Michael Bevins, who manages the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, says most open-air farmers markets won’t be opening in early May.
So, Bevins says buyers will have to adjust to get in on some of their favorites. “Strawberries may not be the first of June, they may be the middle of May, waiting until the first of June, you may miss strawberries altogether,” Bevins says. That is if the cool down doesn’t slow the development of those crops.
Vegetable farmer, John Krull, who operates Krull Farms near Mount Vernon says the cooler weather throws another uncertainty into the timing. “These cold nights are gonna slow it up a little bit now — so we’ll get back to a normal schedule here, I think soon,” Krull says. “We’ve got some sweet corn in and some peas and green beans that are a little ahead of schedule, but with the cold weather coming in we might be right back where we started from.”
Krull has had to sell some of the early crop on his own with the opening of the farmers’ market still weeks away. “The asparagus, the rhubarb is in. It’s selling as fast as we can pick it,” Krull explains. Horticulturist Bevins says the warmer weather isn’t the only factor in the earlier availability of some produce.
He says a government program is assisting produce farmers in building season-lengthening greenhouses. Bevins says that program offers to share the cost of “high tunnel” greenhouses with producers and a lot of producers have taken advantage of it to build the high tunnel greenhouses. “And so they will have crops earlier in the season and later in the season on a regular basis, so I think people should start shopping at farmers’ markets earlier in the season then they have been used to doing for the last few years,” Bevins explains.
The greenhouses provide the producers some protection against the weather shifts early and late in the growing seasons.