Iowa Public Television

 

Warm Weather a Headache for Michigan Asparagus Farms

posted on March 30, 2012


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

inevitable frost.

     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

now."

     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."

 


Tags: asparagus farmers Michigan warm weather