Area farmers hope for more sunshine
By kalea hall
Standing in one of his peach orchards, John Huffman looked around hoping for some more sunshine.
“In the last several weeks, the flavor has been off in peaches and apples. We need a nice, bright, sunny sunshine to help with the flavor,” he said.
Huffman, owner of Huffman’s Fruit Farm in Salem, is not the only farmer in Mahoning County who has dealt with weather interrupting the growth and taste of crops. With the excessive rain, especially in June and July, and cool temperatures, this summer has given area farmers a more difficult time than last year’s drought.
“We have expectations, but Mother Nature runs it,” said Carl Angiuli of Angiuli’s Farm Market in Canfield.
The weather has caused the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow Mahoning and Trumbull county farmers to apply for low-interest loans because of the heavy rainfall from July 3 to 13.
According to the National Weather Service, July 2013 was the fifth-wettest month for the Youngstown area with a total of 7.45 inches of precipitation. Overall, July was about 2 to 3 inches above the average rainfall for the month.
At the Poland gauge, the weather service reports 2.72 inches of rain fell from July 3 to 13. In Trumbull County, at the Newton Falls gauge, the service reports 4.96 just during that week.
“We can always water, but we cannot take the water of the soil,” Angiuli said.
The moisture in the soil has caused flooding and disease, and the cool weather has prevented crops from ripening on time. Lack of sunshine keeps some crops from becoming as sweet as they could be. The sunshine helps to make peaches, apples and other crops develop more sugar.
On Huffman’s 80-some acres, four main crops are grown: apples, peaches, tomatoes and peppers. He also grows nectarines, melons, eggplant and sweet corn. He noticed his peaches were not as red as they should be because of the lack of sunshine, and he lost some melons from moisture causing them to crack. Huffman’s tomatoes and peppers also had some issues this summer. Tomatoes, he said, were behind by weeks.
“Surprisingly, a year that is too dry ends up being better than a year that is too wet,” he said. “There is nothing you can do when you have inches and inches of rain.”
Disease is one problem farmers also are concerned about. The moisture makes plants susceptible to more diseases, and it makes it difficult to treat before the plants die.
“Everyone is definitely observing every fungal disease you can think of,” said Eric Barrett, educator for the Mahoning County Ohio State University Extension Office.
Both Huffman’s and Angiuli’s zucchini and cucumbers struggled this summer because of the cool weather.
“Every other plant is working on growing one zucchini, when usually they are growing three to four at once,” Huffman said.
Cold weather and the rain caused a push back in production for the Angiulis too. They raised the beds on their crops to prevent them from dying from the heavy rain causing floods. Peppers, tomatoes and sweet corn are the main crops on about 150 acres.
“Last year, everything was ahead of schedule,” Angiuli said. “This year, everything is behind.”
During the first week of August, tomatoes were still green throughout Angiuli’s farm. Now, toward the end of August, the tomatoes finally have ripened. Despite problems with lost melons from moisture and tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers hating the cool weather, sweet corn did very well this summer, and sales were OK.
“If we do not have anything yet, it does affect sales,” Angiuli said. “Sales have been good, though.”
One positive outcome this summer is the sweet corn, which did well.
David Hall of White House Fruit Farms said he has not really seen any drastic effects on plants from the weather.
“In this part of the state, I don’t believe we have had excessive water like south of here,” Hall said.
Outside Mahoning County, Trumbull County farmers also have seen the effects of the weather this summer.
“Here we are pushing the end of August, and stuff is just starting,” said David Marrison, extension educator for the Trumbull County Ohio State University Extension Office.
Joe Turon of Turon Farms in West Farmington still loves his job despite the fluctuating weather. He learned a long time ago that worrying about weather will not change anything.
Droughts and floods are something Turon expects, and he plans ahead for it. He expects to lose some of his crops to the weather. With more than 800 acres of farmland, the Turon farms produce field corn, hay, soybeans and grains, and they do a little dairy farming.
“The biggest difficulty is getting stuff done on time,” Turon said.
Cutting hay cannot be done when it is wet out, so Turon had to wait for windows of heat and sunshine to make cuts. But as the saying goes: “rain makes grain,” so the rain is not all bad.
“We are never happy, but we know how this works,” Turon said. “If you don’t roll with it, it is going to eat you up.”
Turon keeps a positive attitude with the weather and other problems farmers face because to him there is still nothing like the smell of alfalfa.
“You cannot beat the office space,” Turon said, referring to farm work.