A Sad Strawberry Season in Vt.
Harsh Weather Yields Small, Rotten Crop
In this June 30, 2013 photo, Summer Clark, 6, throws strawberries into a bin at Sam Mazza's Farm in Colchester, Vt. Strawberry crops have been affected by the large amount of rain in the state this season. (AP Photo/Burlington Free Press, Maddie McGarvey) NO SALES, MAGS OUT, TV OUT, ONLINE OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT
Montpelier — The onslaught of rain this spring and summer has shortened Vermont’s strawberry season, flooded some corn and left farmers scrambling to cut hay before the next round of rainfall.
Sun has been scarce as record rains have inundated fields in parts of Vermont. Burlington had its wettest consecutive months in May and June, and Montpelier set a record for rainfall in June, according to the National Weather Service.
The Charlotte Berry Farm lost two of its three strawberry fields in the wet weather.
“They basically rotted. They grew but they rotted,” said owner Melissa Beatty. Their biggest crop — blueberries — likes the moisture but could use some sun.
“We just need the sun to get them to purple up, blue up,” Beatty said.
The deluge shortened the strawberry season by about seven at Sam Mazza’s Farm in Colchester. The fruit didn’t grow as big and more of it spoiled in the field because of the moisture.
By this time last year, the farm had green beans and baby red potatoes. Now the crops are surviving in the wet soil but not thriving.
“For other crops, they’re growing, but there’s no vigor,” said Laurie Mazza, owner and general manager.
Around the state, dairy farmers are keeping a close watch on the forecast, struggling to cut hay in muddy fields in between rains.
Keith Gray had hoped to collect hay Wednesday at his northern Vermont farm in Westfield, but the forecast switched to rain at night. The wet conditions make the process more labor intensive, he said. The trucks can’t go into the fields because they’ll get stuck, so farmers use tractors to pull wagons behind the chopper to collect the hay.
“We’ll be pulling wagons and getting stuck a lot, I’m sure,” he said.
In Addison County, a Whiting farm will have to leave the 13 dump truck loads of hay cut in the field to rot, said Amy Quesnel of Perry Brook Farm.
“We can’t get to it with the chopper. It’s just too wet,” she said.
The farm family has been working around the clock to get the hay when they have a window of dry weather. Last weekend, Quesnel’s son-in-law mowed hay through the night until 4:30 a.m., and her son followed behind with the chopper, she said.
If the weather doesn’t change, the quality and supply of hay will suffer, said her daughter Kylie Chittenden.
“There’s reason to believe that there’s definitely going to be problems with quality,” she said. “There’s a chance there’s going to be a lot of farmers in this area that don’t have enough.”