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Matthew Kronsberg's Posts

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Why farms want cold winters

Photo by Eric Myers.

Cross-posted from Gilt Taste.

There’s an old Bob Dylan line: “He not busy being born is busy dying.” It’s one to keep in mind when looking at farms in winter, at the brown fields, skeletal orchards, and vineyards waiting for a shot of green. Despite appearances, winter is a surprisingly important time on a farm. There’s a lot going on, biologically, below the surface, much that can influence what we see on market tables for the rest of the year. And much that can go wrong if the winter is warm, as this one has been in the Northeast.

First, the deep, killing, subfreezing cold of winter typically eliminated many damaging insects and pathogens. As Cornell University Fruit Integrated Pest Management Coordinator Dr. Juliet Carroll explains, “A classic example is Stewart’s Wilt of corn. For Stewart’s Wilt, the bacterium that causes the disease overwinters in the flea beetle that feeds on corn. If winter temperatures are low enough, the risk of Stewart’s Wilt may be completely eliminated for a region.” But if that deep cold doesn’t come, an outbreak of Stewart’s Wilt can mean smaller harvests, higher prices, and frustrated farmers.

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It takes a village to save a drowning farm

Photo: Matthew KronsbergCross-posted from Gilt Taste. For many small farmers, the time from late August until the first frost is like the stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas for retailers: It's when the year is made or broken. It's when all the expenses of the spring and summer -- paying the workers who plant and pick and weed, purchasing seed and feed and fuel -- are finally paid for with those flats of tomatoes and bushels of zucchini you see piled high on market tables. That late summer crop is damn near the whole ballgame. This is the great risk of …

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