COLUMBIA COUNTY — Acres of land at Dancing Hens and CSA Farm in Benton Township have been untouched since fall. Unpredictable temperatures have made it hard for vegetable farmer Donald Hess to get out in the fields to start and plant seeds.
“You can feel the ground is still frozen. We can’t get into the ground to work it to warm it up to be able to get plants going,” said Hess.
So far, the cold weather has continued into spring. While it is not unusual for the snowy forecast to last into March, the longer than usual cold front is delaying Hess’ planting process.
“The thing with vegetable growing is timing. Timing, timing is essential. If you miss that window of time, you’re not going to have that harvest period later in the season,” said Hess.
Leafy greens planted in the fall lasted through the winter, because Hess kept them under small tunnel covers. The cover protects plants ready to be harvested from harsh weather. New seedlings will have a harder time growing in the cold.
“Because it’s cold we haven’t really been seeding, but soon I’ll be seeding a lot,” said Neil, a farmhand.
Newly planted vegetables will have to stay inside heated tunnels until the temperature is warm enough. Hess covers newly planted seedlings with plastic to keep them warm overnight. He planted the seedlings later in the season because of the cold weather. If the plants were to die, it would cost the farm time and money. However, Hess has a plan if it does not warm up soon.
“Well, we’re building greenhouses. We’re building more protection, so when we do seed items and when we do get out transplants going we have some place to keep them warm,” said Hess.
If all farmers end up planting later in the season it could mean less product when it’s time to harvest, which could mean more money out of the buyers pocket.