Warm Weather Brings Early Harvest to Western Massachusetts
Farmers across Western Massachusetts say crops from tulips to peaches are appearing weeks ahead of schedule after bouts of unseasonably warm weather this winter and spring.
In Hadley, Massachusetts, asparagus will be the first of the seasonal produce crops to make it to store shelves. Lone green and purple spears are already reaching out of the dusty earth in local fields. Wally Czajkowski of Plainville Farm picked his first box of asparagus spears on Monday.
"Most years we start harvest around the first week of May. This year we had asparagus popping through the end of March -- which is highly unusual."
Czajkowski says he's had to irrigate his fields this spring. but he says it's no substitute for the several inches of rain per week that help asparagus flourish.
"I am afraid if it stays dry though, the spears are going to be much thinner than they should be. asparagus is 99.9% water like most vegetables and fruits. So if we don't have a good supply of water -- we're in trouble."
But the president of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau -- Richard Bonanno -- says a drier season can have its advantages.
"There's always fewer insects, fewer diseases, it's easier to get in the field, it's easier to get things done. So as a farmer we often joke -- a dry year will work you hard, but a wet year will kill you."
Bonanno says it's too soon to know how recent warm days and low precipitation will impact the 2012 season as a whole. He says the early asparagus harvest might lead farmers to stop picking the first week of June rather than carrying on into the middle of the month. Bonanno says harvest dates for other perennial crops like strawberries and rhubarb could experience similar shifts.