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Late Rain Has Delayed 'U Pick' Season

Rainy spring has some Michigan produce farmers unsure how their U-Pick operations will fare.

Late Rain Has Delayed 'U Pick' Season Late Rain Has Delayed 'U Pick' Season Late Rain Has Delayed 'U Pick' Season

Michigan's spring storms created havoc for commuters but the weather patterns also have delayed Michigan crops according to some farmers.

"We're all about two to three weeks behind," said Gwen Ross, market master of the  Royal Oak Farmers Market. "In fact, I knew it was going to happen."

Fenton Farmer's Market begins July 14. Linden's begins on July 27.

Michigan’s varying coastlines and climates produce more than 200 different agriculture crops, according to the 2011 Michigan Farm Market and Agricultural Tourism 2011 Directory.

,10411 Clyde Road in Fenton, offers U Pick on various fruits and vegetables and is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. June through August.

Parts of this industry are dozens of “U Pick” operations where farmers allow customers to pick fruits or vegetables directly from the plants.

The 2011 Directory indicates vegetables and fruits typically harvested in May and June include asparagus, mushrooms, peas, rhubarbs, raspberries and strawberries. July crops include beans, cabbage, lettuce, turnips, apricots, blueberries, cherries, peaches and raspberries.

Ross said she has worked with the farmers market and farm produce for more than 12 years, which lets her see the patterns. "I knew things were going to be late. It was just too much heavy rain," she said.

For a state perspective, the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydraulic Prediction Service offers an interactive map showing different monthly observed precipitation amounts.  The difference in May 2009 and May 2011 is clear in the overlay of colors.

Translating that to a specific region, the Detroit/Pontiac National Weather Service Forecast Office measured 5.38 total inches of rain for May and a highest temperature of 92 degrees Fahrenheit in its preliminary monthly climate data. Only two years before in 2009, the same office reported a total of 2.89 inches for the month of May and a high of 83 degrees Fahrenheit.

Owners of Sandy Acres "U Pick" Blueberry Farm, located in Belleville, said on their answering machine that due to the "extremely long rainy season" their picking season has been delayed and to check back in the middle of July.

Mark Girard, who operates Rowe’s Produce Farm  In Ypsilanti with his wife, Linda, said in the first week of June that it was too early in the season to predict the results of this weather. “But it hasn’t helped any,” he said. “Never been a May that’s been this wet.”

Girard said he has worked for 32 years on the farm, which is family-run and originally belonged to his in-laws.

“We’re the biggest strawberry farm in Michigan,” he said in front of his 25 acres of field devoted to the fruit.

Thursday, June 9 was the opening day of his “U Pick” strawberry season. Along with strawberries, Rowe’s Produce Farm also offers “U Pick” sugar snap peas and raspberries.

Girard explained that because of the constant rain, bees do not fly and therefore cannot help the pollinating process. His strawberry season is usually done by the start of July. “But that may change this year," he said.

Ross said she noticed that most of the best strawberries didn't come until about the third week of June. "Also, some of the later crops are going to be affected because the farmers got to planting and the heavy rains made them have to replant," she said.

With everything two to three weeks later than it normally would be, strawberry season -- which is normally wrapping up -- will likely extended into late July.

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