North Country farms produce $11 million a year in vegetables
Monday, March 4, 2013 - 6:35 am

The total farm gate value for vegetables grown in the state’s six northernmost counties, including St. Lawrence, exceeds $11 million annually, according to the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program.

NNYADP has funded research and educational outreach on soil fertility to improve conditions for fresh market vegetable growers in the North Country.

“We have seen large increases in vegetable acres – up 38 percent – and vegetable farms – up 60 percent since 2002,” says NNYADP vegetable fertility project leader Stephen Reiners.

With program funding, Reiners and Amy Ivy, a horticulture educator for the Cornell Cooperative Extension, developed educational outreach to allow growers to increase their potential for season-long productivity. The duo also trained new and smaller-scale growers on how to best manage production challenges due to a colder climate and shorter growing season.

“‘Hungry’ crops are a common sight in Northern New York vegetable fields, and growers’ commonly-used solutions are costly and often insufficient to meet crop needs. Our short growing season makes it especially important for growers to keep crops growing at full capacity all season long to get the maximum yield possible in just a few months,” Ivy says.

Reiners says pH issues and uneven applications of soil amendments to try to combat soil deficiencies were frustrating growers.

Working with Cornell Cooperative Extension educators across the North Country, Reiners and Ivy encouraged growers to submit soil samples for nutrient analysis. At workshops in Watertown and Plattsburgh in 2012, they presented the results and discussed solutions to the issues each test revealed.

Of the 40 vegetable growers who participated in the first phase of this project, nearly half indicated they would begin testing their soil on a regular basis. Eighteen growers indicated they would begin using cover crops to improve soil fertility, and 20 growers said that investing in irrigation would be worth the cost.

More information on vegetable production in northern New York can be found under “horticulture” on the NNYADP website at www.nnyagdev.org or from local Cornell Cooperative Extension offices.