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Kane County farmers struggle with chilly, wet spring, then summer heat

The agriculture industry in Kane County, trying to rebound from the wettest May and June on record, confronted another challenge in recent weeks with the arrival of a heat wave.

Times were already hard for many farmers.

First came trade wars that threatened to rattle the agriculture industry in an effort to level the playing for the nation and its exports.

And then before planting season began, some farmers were at a disadvantage.

Tim Norris of Spring Bluff Nursery in Sugar Grove said cold temperatures hurt some plants, but didn’t result in too many delays for produce.

Spring Bluff Nursery has a U-Pick vegetable garden and is supported, in part, by a consumer-supported agriculture program, which is a subscription-based service that allows consumers to purchase produce on a regular basis.

“We’re a little bit behind with vegetable planting, but not like corn and soybeans around here,” Norris said.

Plans for the growing season were all but drowned by record-setting levels of precipitation in a two-month span between May and June.

Marc Bernard of Rustic Road Farms in Elburn said there were several weeks when they were unable to get on the fields.

“The rain has really set us back this spring,” he said, noting that the farm was a couple weeks behind schedule because of the rain. “We got in very early spring planting, and it got flooded out.”

That did not deter Rustic Road Farms.

“What we did when we couldn’t get into the field, we planted some early crops in the greenhouses,” Bernard said.

Rustic Road Farms tends to transplant crops to the fields from greenhouses where the early planting of hot weather crops is done.

For some crops, it’s become too late for planting.

Bernard said mostly things directly sowed into the ground were impacted by the rain.

As the precipitation has leveled off in recent weeks, farmers have had to pivot from one extreme to the next, as a heat wave hit the Midwest in mid-July.

“It snowed in April a couple times, and I think that was the worst part because we already had a lot of stuff in the ground,” said Carlos Palomares, one of the owners of Mighty Greens Farm in Elburn.

Much like Rustic Road Farms, the amount of rain during May and June put Mighty Greens Farm behind schedule by a couple weeks.

Palomares said it’s all about how you adapt to the changes in the environment.

“It’s a lot of thinking,” he said. “It’s a lot of improvising. It’s hard. I think being in a good spot and knowing how to manage the challenges of the season, whatever it is, comes with experience.”

Palomares said the slopes and drainage made available on and in proximity to his land are helpful.

“It’s a thing that you don’t really think about when you’re buying or renting land,” he said.

Palomares said he knows of farms that are located on flat land that were more adversely impacted by the rain.

“I see how that can create challenges and those challenges are real,” he said.

Not every problem hit every farmer the same way, but many in the region are impacted one way or another.

Norris said the sale of vegetables and annual plants had slowed down for a while, but it all evens out.

Bernard shared that sentiment.

“Eventually, we’re going to be fine,” he said. “Everything’s going to be shifted toward the end of the season.”


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