It's late August, and that means right now, it's the sweet spot for locally grown food. This brief time allows Granite Staters to harvest what's been growing all summer, and we also get to look forward to the fall picking season. Apples, pumpkins, and more.
Joining me now to talk about the state of New Hampshire's agriculture is George Hamilton, with the UNH Cooperative Extension.
I can only say this anecdotally, but it seems like the summer has been pretty kind to New Hampshire farms, I'm no farmer but it seems like it's been fantastic for growing vegetables.
Well, you're looking at it as the average growing for the whole season, but if you really look at it, it's been a year of extreme ups and downs. We've had some cold weather, followed by the next week of really hot, followed by the next week of really cold. So it's hard for the plants to know - should we be growing or what should we be doing? So the farmers have had their hands full trying to keep the plants growing and making sure they keep all the insects and diseases off of them so that we can harvest them this time of year.
So how did the plants respond to all that volatility?
One of the problems is that they might not come out and be uniform ripe across the field. Sweet corn - we had some plantings come in the same time as the second planting, so we get that 90 degree weather so maybe two fields will come to maturity at the same time so that makes it a little bit harder for the farmer to know how much to plant way back in the spring, not knowing what the weather's going to be like at harvest time.
As a whole there's a lot of good product out there. The tomatoes may have been slow to ripen but they're starting to ripen now. Some of the sweet corn was a little bit late but we have a volume out there, so you want to support our local farmers with all the crops that they have.
Let's look forward to the fall now - how's apple picking season going to look?
I was just out on three farms yesterday and wow, the apples are a fantastic size, most farms have a real ample to large crop, so I'm getting real excited as to what the crop might be. I know that a lot of the orchards are getting excited, actually some of them are already picking apples right now. They're into many of their early varieties and mac season is just around the corner.
So, how's the pumpkin crop?
Pumpkin crop is looking good, not a bumper crop. Size is looking a little small, I’m hoping they’ll catch up and we’ll have nice-sized pumpkins for people to purchase. Disease-wise, we haven’t been too bad this year, insect-wise, it’s been a normal year. We’re real excited to see what comes off the fields here in another three to four weeks.
And what else can Granite-Staters look forward to?
Well right now, those farmers who have peaches have a real good peach crop sitting out on the farms right now, especially in the Hollis, Londonderry area. But once you get up to the Concord area, the cold winter weather took most of the peaches out. So most of the good peaches are going to be along the Massachusetts line and they’re really doing well right now.
Now, let’s talk for a minute about blueberries. For more on that crop, we turn to Lorraine Merrill, the Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food. Lorraine, how did the blueberries do this year?
I’ve had several farmers from different parts of the state comment that they’ve just gotten a terrific crop of late blueberries. They’re just starting to pick now, but it sounds good for this later crop.
How do Maine blueberries compare to New Hampshire blueberries?
You think of the Maine wild blueberries which we have in New Hampshire as well. You know, those smaller, low bush blueberries that are really wonderful and intense in flavor. We have some that grow over in the Strafford area, up to the Lakes Region, but most of the blueberries grown in New Hampshire are the cultivated, larger fruit berries.
Conditions were right for the cultivated berries this year?
It seems as though especially these later crops are doing really well. Lots to pick and they taste good!