WALKERVILLE, Mich. (AP) - Asparagus is rising from the ground
because of Michigan's extraordinarily warm weather, a condition
that could eventually ruin the crop due to a lack of labor and
Asparagus is a spring crop, especially in Oceana and Mason
counties in the northwestern Lower Peninsula, but not this early.
Though temperatures topped 80 degrees last week, lows in the next
few days could drop to 32 or lower. A freeze watch was posted
Sunday by the National Weather Service.
"I've never seen a spring like this - never," Thomas Oomen of
Oomen Farms told The Muskegon Chronicle (http://bit.ly/H6tL7e).
"I've been in agriculture my whole life. It just creates a whole
bunch of problems. If it freezes, the crop will just kind of go
away. If the help isn't here, we'll have to mow the field off and
start over. There is just another level of stress in this right
Grower Mike Van Agtmael believes 50 of his 80 acres of asparagus
could be at risk.
"Everyone is extremely nervous," he said.
Migrant workers hand-pick virtually all of Michigan's asparagus,
going row by row while riding in a cart. But the workers are
elsewhere in the United States at this time of year, and typically
don't make it to Michigan's fruit-and-vegetable belt until late
April or May.
"They have kids in school and a change in plans isn't in the
norm for them. That's their life," Oomen said.
Norm Myers, an educator with the Cooperative Extension Service,
said a grower in Belding, northeast of Grand Rapids, already has 5
percent of his crop poking through the ground.
"The concern is that the earlier that it comes up the more
likely it is going to frost," Myers said. "That's the ugly side
of this warm weather."