Iowa Weather Woes

By Kelsey Johnson

The Midwest is infamous for its unpredictable weather, and as told by Ralph Kiner, “You know what they say about Chicago. If you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes.” Though here in Iowa, we doubt that even Kiner could have predicted the insane fluctuations of this season: over a foot of snow in May, followed by record heat, record rainfall, and then weeks of temperatures 10 degrees below normal. Sporadic weather patterns have varying consequences for farmers, and can have dramatic effects on their overall production. So how have our BFBL members been faring? Well, it depends.

For instance, wine enthusiasts are going to have to wait a little longer for their favorite Iowa grapes. Excess rain does not treat all plants kindly, and grape vines are particularly unhappy with this cold, rainy weather. “Vines don’t like to have their feet wet,” said Christine Carlton from Two Saints Winery. “We’ve had to do a lot of spraying for fungus because it’s been so wet.” While some of the vines have been getting a little yellow around the edges, Carlton is confident everything will work out, granted the plants get some warm weather and a chance to dry out.

Weather pic

Similarly, produce has also met its share of challenges due to the wet, cool conditions. “Mother nature has thrown us a curve ball this year,” said Wade Dooley, owner of Glenwood Century Farm in Albion. “We’ve been two weeks behind since the beginning.” For Dooley, setbacks mean rearranging priorities; such as switching his focus from row crop farming to produce, as the majority of his row crops have been taken over by the river. Flowers have yet to bloom and watermelon and squash transplants are only now putting on some good growth.

However, not all members have had to deal with such substantial problems. La Quercia specializes in cured meats and salami and is less vulnerable to unexpected weather. “Here in our location in Norwalk we are strictly production and it hasn’t impacted us besides that we are putting an addition on our building,” said Kendra Armel. “They’ve stopped production to pump water out of the holes they were digging and had a few rain days where they couldn’t work at all.”

While hogs might not mind a bit of cool, wet weather, bees tend to be a little more finicky. Unfortunately, it turns out that cold weather is not conducive to honey production, and the bees have lost full workdays. Yet despite the harsh conditions, farmers continue pressing forward, and Doyle Kincy of Kincy Apiary embodies the work ethic needed to keep production moving. “We got off to a slow start with the cool weather, but with it warming up last week and this week I think we’ll start catching up. I had my head down in the hive when you called!” he said.” “I think we’ll be in good shape.”