This week, our newspaper looks at two of Vermont’s most visible late summer harvest crops—apples and pumpkins.
While we recognize the importance of apples to the state’s agricultural mix, pumpkins often get scant attention. Considering Halloween, autumn decorating, and Thanksgiving, pumpkins play a bigger part in Vermonters’ cultural lives than you might think.
This year’s apple harvest—while perhaps better than expected considering an early spring and late summer of lousy weather—was not as good as previous years. Still, orchard owners can be thankful; it could have been much worse. There are still lots of apples and plenty of cider to sell.
Talking with a few apple growers in Addison, Rutland and Windsor counties, it was amazing to learn that, at least when it came to Hurricane Irene’s tropical storm edition here in Vermont, location and terrain made all the difference.
In Addison County, it wasn’t Irene that did the bulk of the damage. No, it was—instead—all the heavy rain in spring that interrupted apple-tree pollination. Who would have imagined that the heavy rains of spring 2011 would become more of a problem than Tropical Storm Irene?
A few orchards in Rutland County experienced more Irene damage than their northern counterparts; but that isn’t surprising. In Windsor County, two of several orchards there reported only minor damage from Irene.
We always hear about highway and bridge infrastructure when it comes to storm damage in our state, but it seems agriculture got overlooked last month. When you realize just how much farmers depend upon the weather (and the land) to make a living, you understand just how vulnerable our ag infrastructure can be.
It’s time for the State of Vermont to take a more serious, high-tech approach to how future weather and climate change will affect state agriculture.
Are we providing our farmers with all the necessary technical weather/climate data and related technology to make better informed weather-planning decisions on the ground?
For example, the Upper Midwest Aerospace Consortium based at the University of North Dakota has provided real-time NASA and NOAA satellite data to farmers and ranchers to better understand moisture and frost damage on their land—over time. Are such Space Age tools, already paid for by the taxpayers, being made available to Vermont’s dairy and crop farmers?
It’s time to think outside the box in helping support Vermont farming and making it a model for the nation. The tools are out there. All we need do is get our hands on them.