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.