Constant rainfall takes toll on local farmers

Unusually high amounts of rain in July have left some farmers contending with muddy fields and soggy crops. File photo

If it feels like there has been an unusual amount of rain lately, you aren’t wrong.

And while all the precipitation makes it tough to mow the lawn or take a dip in the pool, area farmers are dealing with much bigger challenges.

The rain has impacted his farm’s production, Lloyd Zimmerman of Black Horse Farms in Athens said.

“We can’t get into the fields to plant as much as we usually can,” Zimmerman said. “Because of the rain the bees are not moving around, therefore they are not pollinating the crops.”

Some crops have been affected more than others.

“The crops haven’t been damaged yet, but the cucumber crops, for instance, should have been at full production right now but they are not — there are a few cucumbers on the plants, but not as much as there should be,” Zimmerman said.

Corn crops are doing fine and workers began picking tomatoes Friday and the yield has been excellent, Zimmerman said.

“Certain crops are being affected more by the weather than others,” he said.

Farmers have also been impacted by rising prices for fertilizer and sprays, which will add to the difficulties this year, he added.

“There will be losses — it’s too early to tell how much of an impact it will have,” Zimmerman said.

Tessa Edick, owner of Empire Farm in Copake and founder of the advocacy group Farm On! Foundation, said farmers are being seriously impacted by a number of factors.

“We have had almost 15 inches of rain in July, which causes all kinds of immediate damage to crops and other problems like mold and pest damage,” Edick said.

Excessive rainfall and the damages it can bring can lead to less-than-perfect looking produce, which does not appeal to consumers, Edick said.

“Any kind of damaged, ugly, beetle-eaten leaves are not used or paid for, which makes the overall volume go down that supports the family farm in a short season of growing vegetables,” Edick said, adding that her hemp crop has been particularly hard hit.

“There has been devastation to hemp with all this rain,” she said. “It is not a rain-friendly plant.”

At Ooms Dairy Farm, the challenges are lower compared to vegetable farms, but hay production to feed the cows has been impacted, Eric Ooms said Monday.

“It’s got to be brutal for vegetable farmers,” Ooms said. “For us, as dairy, the biggest challenge is that we haven’t been able to get our second (hay) cutting done, and the quality is going to be greatly diminished. Theoretically it will dry out some time, but it will limit the quality we eventually get, and it will limit our ability to get additional cutting done later.”

The farm’s corn crop has been largely undamaged, but remains the dairy farm’s greatest concern with the excessively wet weather.

“Our corn, which is our biggest concern, is probably fine,” Ooms added. “But it is incredibly frustrating and it will impact how much feed and, more importantly, the quality of the feed we have at the end of the year.”

It is difficult to predict how much total production or quality will be affected, Ooms said.

“Farms across the state have been impacted,” New York Farm Bureau spokesman Steve Ammerman said Monday. “It depends on how much rain you have received — we have some farms in the Capital Region that have had flash flooding, which is devastating. We heard reports in Broome County where corn was flattened by winds.”

The excessive rain has left many farmers contending with sloppy fields and soggy crops.

“It’s a muddy mess — it has been more difficult for farmers to get into the fields, harvest the vegetables and some fruits that are available right now,” Ammerman said. “It is creating logistical challenges rather than damage — you can’t cut hay when it’s such wet conditions, getting equipment into a muddy field can cause compaction issues and cut up the field — it is those kinds of things that are the bigger issues.”

If the heavy rainfall continues, it could lead to more problems down the road, such as mold and pests, Ammerman said.

In the Albany area there have been only two days in July when there was no rain, according to the National Weather Service in Albany.

“On July 5 and July 15 there was no rain. Other than those two days, there has been at least a trace of rain every day in the month of July,” meteorologist Michael Main said Monday. “It is very unusually wet right now.”

Over the past 30 days, going back to the end of June, there has been more than 10 inches of rain in many areas of the Twin Counties. Copake had 13.5 inches, Kinderhook saw 10.5 inches and Tannersville received 10 inches of rain, Main said.

“And over the last two weeks, some of those same areas in Columbia County have seen between 6 and 10 inches,” he added.

Areas in Greene County saw between 6 and 8 inches over the past 14 days.

In a more typical summer, average rainfall in Albany would be about 4.5 inches for the entire month.

“And we already surpassed that halfway through the month,” Main said. “It has definitely been an unusual weather pattern over the last two or three weeks.”

More wet weather is expected Tuesday and Wednesday, but the latter part of the week could dry out a bit, Main said. Showers could return Sunday.

“The rain affects each individual farm differently,” Edick said. “All of them have different impacts that are favorable or unfavorable for the rain, but no crop needs to be sitting in a swamp.”

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