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Last Chance Foods: Spring Farm Report

Friday, May 31, 2013

Hot, sunny weather seems to finally be here to stay. That means zucchini and tomatoes should be here, too, right? Well, not quite. This spring has been long and cool, particularly compared to last year, according to area farmers.

“Edible, right now? Today? Nothing yet,” said Long Island farmer Joe  Barszczewski. “We didn’t have a spring. It looks like we’ve gone from winter now leaning toward summer. And everything is a little bit behind, probably two weeks.”

Barszczewski grows 20 acres of vegetables on the East End. That’s just enough to supply his farm stand on Albertson Lane in Greenport. Right now, the stand is mostly stocked with seedlings. That’ll change soon.

“With this warm weather, you can catch up quick,” he said. While New York City residents seemed to get rain nearly every other day this spring, Barszczewski said his fields got just enough to avoid having to irrigate.

Barszczewski said the cooler weather helps prevent farmers planting too soon. Gail Hepworth of Hepworth Farms in Milton, New York, agreed. She grows 182 varieties of vegetables and supplies the Park Slope Food Co-Op. She said cooler weather helps enforce the guideline of only planting after May 15 in this growing zone.

“A lot of times when it’s warm weather like last year, we were biting at the bit to get out there because it just seemed like everything was ready for us,” Hepworth said. “And that’s very dangerous because before May 15 there can be a frost.” An unexpected frost can have farmers starting all over.

One way to help ensure crops are available regardless of weather conditions is to rely on greenhouses, which is what Sang Lee Farms in Peconic, Long Island, have been doing. Will Lee said that they’re currently harvesting raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries, as well as asparagus, lettuces, sugar snap peas, and radishes. Soon, they’ll start planting in the fields.

Nevia No of Bodhitree Farm is harvesting strawberries from her fields at Bodhitree Farm in the Pemberton Township of New Jersey. She says her strawberry season is nearly over, but that farmers further north will take over where her stock leaves off.

Unlike the Eastern End of Long Island, No said that the southern part of New Jersey got just enough rain. “We did get a sufficient amount of water,” she said. “We didn’t really have a very long dry spell... which was a good benefit for all the greens.”

No brings her produce to the Union Square farmers market on Wednesdays and Fridays. On Saturdays, Bodhitree Farm has stands at the Abingdon and Greenpoint McCarren Park markets. Right now, she is harvesting English shell peas, leafy greens, and summer radishes. The Italian leafy green spigarello, which tastes like broccoli, did particularly well this year, and No said to look forward to fava beans showing up in the next few weeks, too.

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Amy Eddings

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Last Chance Foods covers produce that’s about to go out of season, gives you a heads up on what’s still available at the farmers market and tells you how to keep it fresh through the winter.

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