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Wisconsin farmers take weather in stride

  • Associated Press
  • July 5, 2014 - 6:00 PM

APPLETON, Wis. — Rain has taken a significant toll on Wisconsin farm work, but growers in the Fox Valley region say they're doing the best they can while they hold out for more sunny days.

The 2014 growing season arrived with significant challenges. A harsh winter melted into a cold spring with heavy rains, restricting how much time farmers could spend in their field, Post-Crescent Media reported (http://post.cr/TKzATs ).

But they're remaining optimistic, hoping for a string of sunny days to put them back on track.

"It's been a little slow and we're a couple weeks behind," farmer Sid Kroeger said as he set up for Menasha's Farm Fresh Market last week. Then he shrugged and added, "Grin and bear it. We live in Wisconsin."

Recent crop reports by the U.S. Department of Agriculture say rain has taken a toll on Wisconsin's farms. A report on Monday said 3.2 days were suitable for field work across the state in the previous week. In the week before that, only 1.8 days were suitable.

The main culprit in both reports was saturated soil. For example, the 16.7 inches of rain that fell in Appleton from April to June is 6.5 inches more than normal, the National Weather Service said.

Not all growers are concerned. Some say their seasons have been shaping up favorably.

Don Spoehr, who owns DJ's Fresh Produce, said his growing season has been "excellent." He has sandy soil, which helps avoid soggy conditions, and he said he gambled and won by planting sweet corn on April 1 despite frost risks. The crop is coming along well, he said.

Brandon Leitzke, seasonal horticulturist for the Outagamie County UW Extension, said it's hard to predict what the tough, early months will mean for the season as a whole. The rain has helped weeds flourish, and it brings a heightened risk of disease and insect damage.

Still, things haven't turned out as poorly as some initially feared, he said.

"All things considered — given the terrible hand they've been dealt — many people are doing better than they might have expected," he said.

© 2014 Star Tribune