Food Lawn and Garden

The “Gambling” Farmer

By: Marion Webber

This article is brought to you by: Mosher’s Jewlers
336 Huron Ave, Port Huron, 48060, Tel: 810-987-2768/ www.moshers.com

Michigan is known for its changing weather!  Looking back on growing up on a vegetable farm, I never realized how much farming was a “gamble.”  Watching my dad panic when crops were planted and no rain was in sight was always a major stress for him.  I never realized it as a child, but certainly as I grew up I could understand it better.  Trying to feed a family of 8 was always a challenge! Finally, dad put in a pond to solve that particular problem, but then came the bugs and diseases.  When it was time to take it to the market, it also was a gamble.  If everyone had a bumper crop (or a good year for growing crops)  the prices would be so low that all that work would barely pay off.  You almost had to wish for an area of farmers to experience a late frost or drowning rains in the summer to ruin their crops so the price would go up.  What a crazy way to live, and yet this is how it was.

Greenhouses were the next “option.”  At least the environment was more predictable (as long as a furnace didn’t go out, or a freak ice storm didn’t cut open all the plastic roofs.)  At least this was “controllable.”  We still did the outdoor farming, but at least we had a back up plan.  Yes, farmers are the biggest gamblers I know.  Literally, on big farms with no irrigation, one rain at seeding time can make or break the year.  Some farmers now take out crop insurance to help with these problems.  Insurance is not cheap, but at least it keeps you in business in case of a huge loss.

Fruit tree farmers are facing the same problems as well.  This year we have already seen the ups and downs of the weather.  Already in southern Michigan, where the weather is a little warmer than here in the Port Huron area, the farmers are anxiously waiting to see if temperatures fluctuate from the current “holding pattern.”  Some fruit tree growers worry that a warm spell in the next couple of weeks, followed by a cold snap, will harm the plants.  When temperatures get down around freezing that stops them and they quit growing.  Although people who don’t farm can’t wait to see the nice warm weather, it is detrimental if it gets warm and freezes hard after buds are on the trees.  This is what happened in 2012 when farmers endured two weeks in mid-March that saw highs in the 80’s and overnight lows in the 70’s, causing rapid growth that was devastated by a following cold snap.

Michigan leads the nation in blueberry production; farmers grow more than one-third of all U.S. blueberries and more than 30 different varieties by 600 family farms. Michigan has almost 21,000 acres devoted entirely to blueberries.  Half of the blueberry acreage in Michigan is more than 40 years old, some planting dating back to the 1930’s. Michigan yields an average of 5,000 pounds of blueberries per acre. and 70-75 percent of the nation’s tart cherries and 20 percent of sweet cherries.

Apple orchards abound in our Blue Water Area.  Apples are one of the largest and most valuable fruit crops grown in Michigan, where the industry has an annual $200 million economic impact, according to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.  Some 11.3 million apple trees dot the state across 825 different farms.  In 2016 it was projected to harvest 31 million bushels of apples. (1.302 billion pounds).  An average apple harvest is about 22.83 million bushels (958.86 million pounds). About 60 Percent of Michigan apples are processed into products such as apple sauce, juice, cider and vinegar.

Did you know?  

  1. Michigan slices more apples for use in pies and fresh cut slices than any other state!
  2. Apples are naturally free from fat, cholesterol and sodium. They are also an excellent source of fiber
  3. Apples are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, which help protect the body from harmful free radicals
  4. Apples are a good source of B-complex vitamins and trace amounts of minerals

Unfortunately there’s not a grower in the state of Michigan that can control what Mother Nature has in store for us.  Let’s hope for the sake of our “gambling farmers” we are blessed with abundant crops for both the farmer and for us!

Check out this local list of orchards to plan your fall picking party!

McCallum’s Orchard & Cider Mill 

5697 Harris Rd. Grant Twp. 48032

Open 8-5

Wiegand Orchard

11036 Metcalf Rd. Brockway, MI 48097

Open 9-6

Pankiewicz Farms Cider Mill

Blake’s Orchard

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About the author

Marion Webber

Marion Webber, former owner and operator of Haskill’s Greenhouses began the family owned business in 1986 in St. Clair, MI. Along with the retail site, she worked very closely with the community, supplying plants for fundraisers, churches, hospitals and schools. Bus tours were common in the spring, with hands on learning for children, garden clubs and seniors alike. Community service was the goal of Haskill’s. As the children went off on their own, the business was sold in 2006. Marion now is sharing her love for plants and community service writing for Blue Water Healthy Living, a division of GBS Media.

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  • So true about the weather and the crops. No one really knows just how hard it is to grow and farm. Thank you for your article.

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