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The Times
  • Weather’s effects on farming may harm fall tourism season

  • Pumpkins, along with fall favorites such as apples, cider and corn, might be difficult to come by this season, and corn mazes might not be as tall.

    Local farmers faced a challenging growing season this year, first with an unseasonably warm March, followed by frost, then higher-than-average temperatures and extremely dry conditions this summer.

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  • Pumpkins, along with fall favorites such as apples, cider and corn, might be difficult to come by this season, and corn mazes might not be as tall.
    Local farmers faced a challenging growing season this year, first with an unseasonably warm March, followed by frost, then higher-than-average temperatures and extremely dry conditions this summer.
    Crop yields fluctuated from farm to farm, said New York Farm Bureau spokesman Steve Ammerman.
    “It depends on location, location, location,” he said.
    The lack of produce could impact the area’s traditional autumn agritourism such as hayrides, corn mazes, U-pick apples and pumpkins.
    Agritourism is included in the autumn tourism season that runs September through November, and statewide is a $13 billion annual industry, said Eric Scheffel, spokesman with I Love New York.
    Katrina Blanchard, owner of Wolf Oak Acres farm in Oneida, relies heavily on the fall harvest and the tourism it attracts. Her farm is the site of the annual Balloons and Bounty festival and Fall Harvest Festival, complete with a large corn maze.
    In June, however, the maze was looking to be a few ears short.
    “We were scared to death,” Blanchard said. “It was completely stunted.”
    Luckily, the rain came at just the right time making for one of the best mazes they’ve had.
    “It’s got to be at least six to eight feet tall,” she said.
    Her pumpkin crop is a different story with more than half the crop lost to drought-like conditions.
    “We’ll make up for it with the corn sales,” she said. “For the most part we’re not living and dying on pumpkin sales.”
    The pumpkin and winter squash crop greatly varies depending on location.
    While some farmers lost their entire crop due to extremely dry conditions, others who had irrigation are having the best season they’ve had in years.
    “Our neighbors are very happy,” Blanchard said.
    Several farm stands on the same road as her farm had terrific harvests and are profiting from the traffic Wolf Oak Acres draws in.
    Pumpkins, like many crops, were about two weeks early due to the early warm weather, said Jeff Miller, an educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County. He was unable to say how long they typically stay fresh, but said some sellers were worried about not having pumpkins for ornamental use on Halloween.
    Apples, another fall favorite, could be in short supply.
    An abnormally warm March caused fruit trees to bloom early. Many of the blossoms were damaged by frost in April.
    Apple production statewide is projected to be 590 million pounds, 52 percent below the 1.22 billion pounds produced last year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture August Fruit Report.
    Page 2 of 2 - George Joseph, owner of North Start Orchards in Westmoreland, lost more than 50 percent of his apple crop. The orchard won’t be able to have its traditional U-pick apple business. Instead, it will have U-pick pumpkins to supplement business.
    Bill Michaels, co-owner of Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard, a major agritourism stop, lost his apple crop. He’s still able to get apples from his suppliers, whose crops weren’t hit as hard. Michaels’ crop normally goes into the production of Apple Frost Wine, but this year he’ll have to buy the apples for everything, he said.
    Recent bursts of rain have given fall perennials such as mums the energy they need to perk up, said Lynette S. Kay, a horticulture assistant for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County. Hydrangeas also are blooming and turning their fall colors,
    Some perennial plants, however, are a little ahead of schedule due to the warm weather, so not all perennials are offering the colors they normally would, said Holly Wise, a consumer horticulture educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County.
    Gardeners can add annuals to add a little color, she said.
    “Annuals are still blooming good because we haven’t had the hard frost yet.”

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