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Ready for growing season’s bounty

Carol Ann Gregg assortment of produce available from farmers markets
JULY BOUNTY: The assortment of produce available from farmers markets and roadside stands abounds this time of year.
Farmhouse Window: Produce farmers are already hard at work feeding local customers.

It is difficult for me to accept having sweet corn available for the Fourth of July. My internal crop calendar still doesn’t expect roast’n ears until late July or early August.

This change in the availability of sweet corn is a great advancement for produce farmers.

Many folks put market or stand visits into their regular routines so they can take fresh produce home to their families. I love seeing what each of these different stands has to attract and encourage repeat visits from customers. Loyal customers talk about their visits, and this encourages more customers to come out.

For produce farmers, this is a very busy time. They’re making sure their products are picked, sorted, delivered and displayed every day. I so appreciate the efforts that go into making sure that a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables are available.

For many consumers, the person at the stand is their only interaction with a farmer. In many ways, these people are the faces of our industry. By answering a thousand questions, the farmer at the market helps the public to better understand the industry that provides food for their families throughout the year.

Across the country, there are farmers who have adopted a marketing system called Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. Consumers prepay to receive a box of assorted agricultural products on a weekly basis. There are various methods of delivery.

Some farmers have CSA members pick up at the farm on a specific day. Others arrange for customers to pick up their boxes at the local farmers market, and some have drop-off locations where customers can pick up their boxes.

Whatever works to get locally grown, fresh produce to customers is the way to go. I am ready for a fresh tomato sandwich myself.

Grain farmers also are trying new things. Planting green is no longer the newest game in town, but I still recall the first time I saw the result of planting green on an area dairy farm.

Traditionally, the Thieles like to try new things. They learned about planting green but never really planned to take that leap.

A few years ago. the spring rains and warm weather caused the rye cover crop to really grow. This provided Ed Thiele and his sons, James and William, the perfect opportunity to try planting green.

They seeded their corn into the high green rye, then rolled the rye and used a chemical to burn down. Ed said that he used an herbicide for weed control. In the future, he plans to reduce the amount of herbicide for weed control since the rolled-down rye created thatch around the corn that made it look like the corn had been bedded with straw. This thatch of rye straw suppressed the weeds.

The Thieles like to use conservation practices on their farm. Planting green just came a year or two earlier than they anticipated trying it.

Don’t forget that July is National Ice Cream Month. If you happen to be in western Pennsylvania the second Friday in July, plan to visit the Mercer County Northwest PA Guernsey Ice Cream Supper. They serve this creamy, sweet confection with a garden trowel (I kid you not.) All proceeds go to 4-H and Guernsey youth activities.

No one is exactly sure the date of the first supper, but it’s a very long-standing tradition for farm and nonfarm families in the area. Folks who grew up in the area make plans for their visit back home to enjoy some of the best ice cream on the planet.

About a year ago, I was invited to share my thoughts with you in this column. What a fun experience. Together we have been through the pandemic and the impact it’s had on all of us as individuals, farms and businesses. We have come out on the other side knowing a whole lot more about ourselves and how we cope with isolation and stress.

May this year be less stressful and a more positive experience for us all.

Gregg writes from western Pennsylvania. She is the Pennsylvania 2019 Outstanding Woman in Agriculture and is a past president of American Agri-Women.

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