hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

August 29, 2013

Crops make a comeback

City farms rebound from rough start, have successful season

By Bruce Amaro

---- — Local farmer Tyler Kimball’s corn stalks are eight feet tall this year.

Normally, they grow to 12 or 13 feet.

Marlene Stasinos had a similar experience with her farm’s lettuce crop early in the growing season.

“We lost a lot to the wet weather,” she said.

The early summer’s heavy rain gave Kimball, Stasinos and other Haverhill farmers a slow start with their crops this year, but they have rebounded.

Haverhill’s farmers — crop farms like the Stasinos and Srybny farms, crop and livestock farms like Kimball’s, and orchards like Fay’s Farm — all depend on the weather.

This year, the weather during the early growing season made it difficult for them to earn a living from Haverhill’s soil.

Nearly 12 inches of rain in June was followed by consistently high temperatures in July. That contrast shocked the crops and livestock.

“The cows suffered in the wet and damp June, then from the sudden intense heat,’’ said Kimball, owner of Kimball Farm on East Broadway. “They get stressed from the long periods of hot weather.’’

National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration data shows Haverhill averages nearly four inches of rain in June. This year, the city received more than double that amount. Then came the July heat.

But the weather swings have leveled off, the farmers said, giving them a chance for some stronger late-summer crops.

“Everything’s coming back, but we had an awful first crop this year,’’ Stasinos said.

Kathy Srybny-Bucci of Srybny Farm said she will get a good crop of tomatoes this year, but she does not anticipate a late-summer crop to develop because the nights are getting cool, and tomatoes need a lot of warm weather to ripen. Her corn crop has held up, but she does not see a good year for her farm’s beans.

“The corn’s doing well, but we’ve always been lucky up here,’’ she said. “We have good soil that drains well and the crop is coming in well.’’

Donnie Cox of Fletcher Community Farm, where the prime crop is root stock, said the wet June followed by the heat of July could have damaged his crop.

“But I put in an irrigation system that got us through that hot weather when everything went dry,” he said. “All the hard weather gave us problems with weeds.’’

Kimball did not get in all the hay crop he planned to use for feed, and then the spike of non-stop 90-degree weather hurt the milk production. His corn that usually starts in the winter ground drowned from the heavy June rains, he said.

“Nature works in a balance, and we’re just not seeing that balance,” Kimball said.

Jim Fay at Fay’s Farm on Amesbury Line Road said his fruits look okay now, but the wet start to the growing season gave his trees some problems. Trees drop their fruit if they feel stressed, and the water stressed the trees.

“Water is the issue,’’ Fay said. “We had weeks that went from real wet to real dry, and plants like an even-water season.’’

The sudden rise in temperatures into the 90s made the trees drop a lot of fruit to survive. Fay said that trees perform best in a cycle of warm days and cool nights. That allows their fruit to ripen. But he is not too worried as his crop is always a late-season one. The conditions have evened out and the trees have responded well.

Srybny-Bucci understands her business and its risks.

“You hope every year it will get a little better,’’ she said. “Every year is a little different.’’

A tale of two extremes

June: About a foot of rain soaked crops and livestock, making growth difficult.

July: Temperatures consistently in the 90s also caused growing problems.

A tale of two extremes June: About a foot of rain soaked crops and livestock, making growth difficult. July: Temperatures consistently in the 90s also caused growing problems.