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Some producers are building on 2023 successes, while others are doing drastically different things.

Chris Torres, Editor, American Agriculturist

March 25, 2024

5 Min Read
Paul Macrie, owner of Macrie Bros. Blueberry Farm in New Jersey
OPTIMISTIC: Paul Macrie, owner of Macrie Bros. Blueberry Farm in New Jersey, is optimistic for the upcoming growing season. He says his farm has a good marketing group and a good consumer base on the East Coast. Photos by Chris Torres

By Chris Torres

It’s that time of year: Growing season is right around the corner, and producers have already made their plans for 2024.

Some producers are building on successes they had in 2023, while others are trying radically different things. We asked four producers in the Northeast what their plans were for the upcoming growing season, and whether they felt good or bad going into the spring.

Here’s what they said:

Ben Peckman

Peckman is a dairy farmer with 1,000 acres, 150 dairy cows and 120 steers in St. Thomas, Pa.

Is there anything new you are trying for 2024? I'd like to try aerial-seeding some cover crops into standing crops via drone. I don't have a drone, so we’ll need to figure out a plan to get it custom done, or decide to invest in one. The intent would be to establish a bigger cover earlier — easier said than done, for sure.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic going into the next growing season? And why? I'm cautiously optimistic this year. Unlike most of the state last year, we had a very dry summer. We're hoping for more moisture this year, but always mindful of the possibility of drought. 

Thankfully, most inputs are down from last year, so I think with decent yields we should be OK, even though current crop futures are looking pretty bleak. I've learned to not take anything for granted, especially given the uncertainties ahead of us in ag.

What was your biggest success, or failure, in 2023? We were introduced to male sterile forage sorghum in 2022 and grew more in 2023. This forage crop has proven to work fairly well in our conditions and produces a feed that we can exchange with corn silage in our dairy ration.

The bottom line is an economical crop that is replacing expensive corn silage without sacrificing milk pounds and component production.

An area of sorghum near a cornfield

Don Cairns

Cairns is a crop farmer with 1,600 acres — 1,000 acres of corn, 450 acres of soybeans, and 150 acres of wheat and double-crop soybeans.

Is there anything new you are trying for 2024? We drastically upgraded our planting technology in the past two seasons, so we are still working on fully optimizing those upgrades. With the grain market at low levels, we are being very cautious with spending on the 2024 crop. The main thing that we are expanding on is late-season fungicide.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic going into the next growing season? And why? We try to be somewhat optimistic in a year like this, but it will be much harder than the last two years. The corn market is currently below the cost of production, which means that if we have a decent crop, we can still expect to lose money this year.

What was your biggest success, or failure, in 2023? Seeing a good crop at harvest despite a severe dry spell in late spring. Our biggest success was not giving up hope.

Workers sorting blueberries on a machine

Paul Macrie

Macrie is blueberry producer in New Jersey and owner of Macrie Bros. Blueberry Farm — 750 acres of Duke, Envoy, Draper and Bluecrop blueberries.

Is there anything new you are trying for 2024? We will be using more automated sorting, packing and harvesting machines to reduce labor costs.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic going into the next growing season? And why? We are optimistic. We have a good marketing group and a very good consumer base on the East Coast. The Fourth of July holiday — featuring red, white and blueberries — just keeps the volume moving.

What was your biggest success, or failure, in 2023? Our biggest success was having the right new varieties in place as things change in the industry. Everything went as planned, and things were as good as could be.

A close up of clusters of cherries on a tree

Barrow Shaw

Shaw is owner of Shaw Orchards, a 200-acre farm along the Pennsylvania-Maryland state line.

Is there anything new you are trying for 2024? We got a new slushy machine for our retail business, so that we can use some of our extra fruit to make money. Sounds silly, but other markets tell me that slushy drinks are their No. 1 seller.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic going into the next growing season? And why? We are optimistic about our retail business and pick-your-own, which continue to grow, [but] pessimistic about the wholesale fruit market, which continues to see cost inflation, overproduction and, in the case of apples, a proliferation of new varieties that leave the customer confused.

What was your biggest success, or failure, in 2023? Cherries. They were successful in that it was the best and most profitable crop that we've had in many years, and they were a failure in that the perfect season ended with four straight days of wet weather that ruined the remaining one-third of a crop that was still on the trees.

About the Author(s)

Chris Torres

Editor, American Agriculturist

Chris Torres, editor of American Agriculturist, previously worked at Lancaster Farming, where he started in 2006 as a staff writer and later became regional editor. Torres is a seven-time winner of the Keystone Press Awards, handed out by the Pennsylvania Press Association, and he is a Pennsylvania State University graduate.

Torres says he wants American Agriculturist to be farmers' "go-to product, continuing the legacy and high standard (former American Agriculturist editor) John Vogel has set." Torres succeeds Vogel, who retired after 47 years with Farm Progress and its related publications.

"The news business is a challenging job," Torres says. "It makes you think outside your small box, and you have to formulate what the reader wants to see from the overall product. It's rewarding to see a nice product in the end."

Torres' family is based in Lebanon County, Pa. His wife grew up on a small farm in Berks County, Pa., where they raised corn, soybeans, feeder cattle and more. Torres and his wife are parents to three young boys.

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