Farm production in Douglas County is delayed this year due to the cold, stormy days of early spring.
Though the blooming blueberry plants at Norris Blueberry Farms in Roseburg are undamaged from the recent storms and bees have been brought in to the fields, the cold weather is keeping pollinators from getting to work.
“Blueberries can handle cold weather fine, but the problem is pollination,” owner Paul Norris said. “The bees aren’t working at all. They don’t work under 60 degrees.”
The average start time is around April 15, but he projected the bees will start two weeks later than usual, which will then push harvest back as well.
This changed schedule, however, could keep market competition down. Blueberry farms in California have already started the pollination process, so Norris expects there will be a gap between the two states’ production.
“California kind of interferes with us a little bit, but they may be pretty well done with their quality by the time we’re ready, so we might have a better shot at the market,” Norris said. The market starts in Florida and Georgia, he said, but Georgia experienced winter damage this year.
Meanwhile, Brosi Sugar Tree Farms in Winston, Big Lick Farm in Myrtle Creek and Norm Lehne Garden & Orchards in Roseburg are waiting for the wet, muddy ground to dry before they can plant their produce.
“It’s been cold and the ground is really wet, so we can’t get out to do a lot of cultivating in the strawberry patch and that sort of thing,” Norm Lehne said. “If it keeps going it could delay harvest.”
Mark Brosi of Brosi Sugar Tree Farms said though his fruit is looking good and there haven’t been any freezes, he can’t prepare the fields when they’re still soggy.
“Once the weather warms up, we’ll start planting everything we can, but it needs to dry out and the weather needs to warm up before we can really get serious,” Brosi said. “Day after day the same old rainy weather is kind of depressing, and we could be getting things done and prepped, but it just hasn’t happened yet.”
He estimated the farm will open about two weeks later than usual, but he’s not sure if it will affect business overall.
“We’re probably a few weeks behind schedule on planting because we’re just not getting a big break in the weather,” Susie Porter of Big Lick said. “We sell and we grow year round, so it’s going to affect our early spring crops. We’re not going to get that income this time of year like we did last year when it wasn’t so wet.”
Green houses at Big Lick Farm and Norm Lehne Garden & Orchards couldn’t withstand the high winds during the storms of April 6 and 7.
“We lost a 100-foot-long green house that flew apart,” Porter said. “That was a big thing, because we start our early crops in there but it just imploded. It was the worst wind storm we’ve had in about 10 years.”
She said amazingly, most of the plants were undamaged, but she’ll have to replace the green house with something a little sturdier.
“That big wind we had blew some covers off the hoop houses we have, so it’s kind of difficult to get that back together,” Lehne added. “It exposes the plants to the atmosphere, so my son and his crew are busy putting those back over.”
However, there’s still plenty to do on a farm regardless of the weather.
“Sometimes it doesn’t really matter, there’s so many things to do that it almost gives you an opportunity to catch up on things that if it was an earlier year you wouldn’t get done,” Brosi said. “We’re just looking forward to some warmer, sunnier weather like everyone else.”
Lehne said his son still has some over-wintering crops and other plants he was able to get in the ground during the week-long dry spell about a month ago, and he’s still able to take some produce to the farmers market.
“This seems to be standard for spring in Oregon, that we never really know what’s going to happen and we have to be prepared for anything,” Porter said. “There’s not much we can lament about because we’re at the mercy of what the weather’s doing.”