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VOL. 36 | NO. 34 | Friday, August 24, 2012

Odd weather hurts crops

By Joe Morris

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While farmers markets usually offer a lower cost on basic produce than supermarkets, it’s important to remember the same laws of supply and demand apply to both.

For example, Tennessee’s farmers haven’t been hit as hard by drought as their Midwest counterparts, but extreme heat earlier in the summer, along with a near-record dry June, has caused some price spikes in recent weeks.

“The early spring was fantastic in many ways, but not so great when we had a late April freeze,” says Tammy Algood, fruit, vegetable and viticulture marketing specialist with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

“That event alone took out a lot of produce -- blueberries, peaches and some apples in particular. Thanks to the long narrow state we have, it varied widely. Some producers lost it all, while others were hardly touched.”

Then came June’s heat and lack of rain.

“Corn that had been planted early just stopped growing,” Algood says. “Things that were at their normal rate of bloom were not pollinated by bees due to the heat. July brought relief in the form of rain and August has been kind so far, but you have definitely seen the ramifications of all of this craziness in the produce world.”

Seasonal vagaries are why shoppers should try to find out ahead of time what their favorite market will, and won’t, have available. Growers will be able to share what’s coming, and if the market has a main website or point of contact, information on crop availability and pricing should be there as well.