Record Rainfall Dampens Farmers' Crop Season

May 3, 2011 Updated May 3, 2011 at 7:07 PM EDT

By Jennifer Stanonis

May 3, 2011 Updated May 3, 2011 at 7:07 PM EDT

EAST AURORA, NY (WKBW) -- Farm fields that should be full of cool season crops right now remain empty. Many farmers in Western New York say they are being negatively impacted by many rainy days this Spring and record rainfall in April. "Normally I'd be harvesting lettuce, spinach, and radishes by now and I don't have a thing in the ground," Dan Roelofs, the owner of Arden Farm in East Aurora, said. "Real discouraging, it's going to take a long time even when it stops raining, to be able to get back on the soil."

Farmers say soils just can't dry fast enough between rain events for crops to be planted. "We'd have corn in by now, I'd probably have some dill in. When it's almost time to dry out it starts raining again," Bill Weber, owner of Bill Weber's Greenhouse & Farm Market in West Seneca, said. "You can't work the soil when it's wet. Not only the tractor getting stuck, the soil clumps... you have to have it where it breaks apart so you can work it properly... has proper drainage."

Some farms are anywhere from two to six weeks behind planting schedule. "It's testing my patience, really far behind," Roelofs said. "I've missed out on about a month's worth of income and when I only get income for about 6 months of the year that's pretty significant."

The delayed planting is causing a shorter growing season and some crops are even missing their chance to be planted. "Some crops I won't be able to get in. For our field crops we are suppose to have small grains and the window to get those going has just about passed," Roelofs said. "We would have oats {and} barley in the ground by now and wheat. But it's just getting too late to put in and they won't be able to compete against mid-season weeds."

Even many young plants at markets remain on the shelves. They aren't being sold as fast as they usually are since consumers who buy them for their own gardens can't plant them yet. "It's too wet, people can't get into their gardens, it's just too wet." Weber said.

All the moisture is also causing another concern that could harm crops. "Once the moisture builds up it's there for the season and the funguses are already there and we put the plants in and the fungus is established," Roelofs said.

All the latest issues with mother nature at local farms will most likely mean higher prices for the consumer and not as much local produce available. "I know farmers' markets are getting ready to open now that it's May and they open around Mother's Day so they might be slow to see the lettuces and the cool season crops at the markets," Sharon Bachman, with the Cornell University Cooperative Extension Erie County, said. "I think it's going to be a struggle for local farmers' markets opening to have product ready."