posted on August 03, 2011 12:36
It's been a rough spring and summer for area farmers, with weather and precipitation going to different extremes for long periods of time. That's not about to get any easier for some farmers in Orleans County, who saw significant portions of their fruit and vegetable crop destroyed in a matter of hours early Monday.
Strong thunderstorms coming off Lake Ontario between 3:30a.m. and 5:30a.m. dropped 2 inches of rain and hail across a 5-mile wide strip, extending down through west-central Orleans County and into northeastern Genesee County.
Farmers in Lyndonville and Medina saw the worst of it.
"Pears and apples in Lyndonville were affected by the wind and hail and rain," says Joanne Crosman of the local Farm Service Agency. She estimates that most trees along the storm's route will be rendered nearly useless come harvest time.
"And in the Medina area, winter squash and cucumbers were beat up pretty bad by the weather as well," she said. Crosman saw several fields ponding under the quick rush of rainwater. Mature crops, she says, can handle that sort of deluge and put it to good use.
Unfortunately, not many crops have had a chance to mature this year. Many fields were planted late due to extremely wet spring conditions that would have drowned the seedlings. Once the crops were in the ground, the early-summer dry spell stunted their growth despite farmers' best efforts to irrigate.
Orchard crops like the apples and pears are always delicate and depend upon relatively warm spring weather to properly bloom. Freezing cold snaps extended into April this year, and then Monday's hail struck a killing blow to the section of crop within its path.
"They (the farmers) don't have any hard dollar amounts yet, but obviously this isn't going to help the bottom line," says Crosman. She expects the Orleans Farm Service Agency to begin submitting reports into the state and federal chain of command shortly. The affected farmers will likely be eligible for federal emergency farm loans.