‘Roller coaster’ growing season for Vermont farmers

Published: Jul. 5, 2021 at 3:54 PM EDT
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BRADFORD, Vt. (WCAX) - “A bit of a roller coaster.” That is how farmers are describing this year’s growing crop in Vermont. The hot weather took its toll on the strawberry crop but, when it comes to local food, there is more than one reason to celebrate.

“Knee-high by the Fourth of July.” This year’s corn crop is right on schedule and corn isn’t the only vegetable doing well.

“Summer squash, zucchini, cantaloupes,” Bradford farmer Dave Pierson said.

Pierson says the hot and dry weather the across the region is actually a good thing for most crops.

“Eggplant, peppers, doing fine,” he said.

But, while the strawberries at the Pierson Farm in Bradford have their usual sweetness, they are definitely smaller than in years past.

“Strawberries don’t like 90-degree weather. A lot of small ones and then the last week they really took it hard with 90-something-degree weather,” Pierson said.

“You know last May and June it was high 80s and no rain,” said Taylor Henry at the Cedar Circle Farm.

Blueberries will be the next crop ripe for the picking there. Both Upper Valley farms have irrigation which solves the rain issue. And both are seeing an increase in traffic at their farm stands.

“Our CSA sales were awesome last year,” Henry said.

However, the pandemic forced the farm to cancel last summer’s camp. Thankfully, that 10-week program for kids ages 6-12 is back on.

“Just get them out in the field. Show them where their food comes from, show them what farmers look like. They pick weeds and they pull pests off of plants,” Henry said.

No matter the age, renewed interest in local agriculture is on the rise.

“They were a safe, reliable, consistent product that you could get,” Vt. Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts said.

Tebbetts says surveys show more people are buying their foods locally despite how Mother Nature may influence the crop.

“We just need to build on it. We hope it is here to stay,” Tebbetts said.

It’s another silver lining to the pandemic-- there is added interest in the local food that ends up on your plate.

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