Farmers' mantra: Rain, rain go away for now
Mike Janoski of Janoski's Farm and Greenhouse in Findlay, lifts the covering that protects the farm's tomato plants from the unseasonable cold, wind and rain.
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Wet and cold are playing havoc on Pennsylvania crops this month, but all is not lost.
"Good times are coming," said meteorologist Terry Parrish of the National Weather Service.
It should stop raining by Thursday and the temperatures will return to the 70s by the weekend. That will allow area farmers and nurseries to do what they haven't been able to this May: cut the hay and plant the vegetables.
"We got a good early start in April. We planted a lot of vegetables early, but it all came to a standstill in the last two weeks," said Dan Janoski of Janoski's Farm & Greenhouse in Findlay. "We went from being ahead to being behind."
The farm managed to plant some sweet corn, broccoli, cabbage and other vegetables, but peppers, tomatoes and additional plantings of corn have had to wait because the ground is too soggy.
"We haven't been able to get into the field," said Mr. Janoski. "It's too muddy to work the soil."
The nursery part of the farm has also been hurt because no one's going out to buy anything. Greenhouse sales for May are off 50 percent.
It's the same for farms and greenhouses across the region.
"We can't do any hay cutting. We can't get the corn planted. It's too wet," said Marko Brigich, who runs a dairy farm in Chartiers with his two sons.
In April, the men did manage to plant 150 acres of corn, about half their acreage, but they couldn't get to the other half because of the rain and time spent milking their 250 cows.
Milk production is down, too, because it's been too cold for the pasture grass to grow high enough for the cows to get enough nutrition. Mr. Brigich said his cows produced 800 pounds of milk yesterday, but the normal amount is 1,700 pounds.
"They just don't eat much out there," he said. "It's too cold."
Drought is usually the bane of the farmer, but too much rain is equally frustrating. Hay, for example, needs to dry out before it's cut. And it needs to be cut at the right time because it loses protein as feed if it grows too long.
Cold adds more misery. If the soil temperature stays below 50 degrees, corn won't germinate. And if the corn remains in the ground too long, it can rot or end up damaged by disease.
"Corn planting is way behind schedule," said Blairsville dairy farmer Richard Ebert, vice president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.
He planted 35 acres on May 6, but then it started to rain. Normally by now he would have 250 acres planted to feed his 75 cows.
"Every few years or so we get a real wet May like this," he said. "Farmers are always battling the weather."
Statistically, May hasn't been unusually wet or cold. As of yesterday, 2.8 inches of rain had fallen, 0.75 inches above normal. The average temperature has been 56.6 degrees, 1.3 degrees below normal.
But the numbers are deceiving because the first part of the month was warm and dry.
It's the last two weeks that are the problem, with high temperatures dropping into the 60s. Temperatures at night have fallen into the 30s in some places. And it's rained almost every day, at least a little. The only days without rain have been May 4, 5, 6 and 13.
All that water makes it hard for the average homeowner, let alone the farmers.
"Home gardeners are having the same problems the farmers have," said Sandy Feather of the Penn State Cooperative Extension in Point Breeze. "You can't till the soil when it's wet. You destroy the structure."
You can't even cut your grass.
But the sun is coming.
First Published May 20, 2008 12:00 am