Cold weather delays work at Whidbey farms

Hello? Sunny weather? Are ya out there?

Those are the questions residents are thinking about as winter-like weather continues to blow through Whidbey Island during what is supposed to be a summer month.

Beyond the annoyance factor, the colder-than-normal weather has economic consequences. It has delayed crops from being planted at local farms.

Sheila Case-Smith, owner of Case Farms, said she hasn’t planted warm-weather crops such as pumpkins, corn and beans because of the cold weather. She said the seeds will rot in the ground, or if they sprout, they will be stunted.

She added the cold season crops, such as peas, broccoli, spinach, onions and lettuce are doing well.

Because of the cool weather, Case-Smith said she is looking at finding alternative plants that have a shorter growing time because of the shortened season.

“I haven’t really experienced this,” Case-Smith said of the cool season. “This one has been going on longer than normal.”

She was surprised because of the extra-dry February. The lack of rain allowed her to plow the fields to get them ready for planting in March and April. Unfortunately, after several months of damp, cool weather, those field are still waiting for seeds.

Case-Smith added she is spending a lot of time controlling weeds, which seem to be thriving under the current weather conditions.

Fifty degree weather, wind gusts and rain continue to hit the island and affected agriculture on Whidbey Island. Folks living near Greenbank experienced several hours of hail and heavy rain Monday night.

“It was just steady, nonstop hail and rain,” said Colleen Hammer, market manager at the Greenbank Farm. She said rain poured down steadily for two to three hours. She was attending a meeting at the farm about the upcoming Loganberry Festival.

The damp, cool weather has delayed many of the products that shoppers enjoy buying at farmers markets this time of year.

Hammer said the produce and flowers that normally fill the Greenbank market in early June are delayed for two to three weeks.

She added that the attendance of the Sunday market hasn’t suffered yet. Being scheduled on Sunday, the weekly market has enjoyed comparatively nice weather during the spring.

From last Friday to Tuesday morning, 0.63 inches of rain fell and wind gusts reached approximately 40 mph on North Whidbey, according to the Naval Pacific Meteorology and Oceanography Detachment.

Peg Tennant is experiencing a similar situation with the markets she manages in Coupeville and Oak Harbor.

“People walk in and say, ‘Where is the produce?’ and I say, ‘Where is the sunshine?’” Tennant said.

She is hoping the first batch of cherries will be available this week and she noted a pink blush is starting to form on strawberries, which means they are about three weeks from appearing at farmers markets.

She said it’s been a waiting game and vendors are a bit frustrated with the cold weather. So far nobody is talking about how the weather will affect them long term.

Sarah Richards, owner of Lavender Wind Farm, said her flower crop has been pushed back by several weeks, but it looks like it will be a nice crop when it blooms. While her product is delayed, she noted the weeds are growing well.

She said people are disappointed when they shop and don’t have any fresh garden items for sale.

People will have to be patient, not only for the weather to improve, but for popular produce and flowers to grow and become available.

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