ERIE, Pa. — Mild weather might have encouraged foot traffic at Wine & Chocolate Weekend in Lake Erie Wine Country, but the warm temperatures have some farmers on alert.
“The plants could basically get kind of confused what season it is,” said Tim Burch, owner of Burch Farms Country Market at Sidehill and Moorheadville roads in North East Township. Some of his crops experienced premature budding in December 2015 due to warm weather.
“As farmers, we’re starting to get a little bit concerned. It’s way too early for this beautiful weather here in Erie County. The first concern we have is for the tree fruit. They usually bud before grapes do,” said Burch.
He said the crops have not been affected yet.
“Saying that… the big concern is: how long is this warming trend going to last? If it lasts all week, by next weekend we could be very, very worried about what’s ahead of us.”
Burch is not alone in his concern.
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, there were 1,600 farms across Erie County in 2007, and commodity sales exceeded $70 million.
“If the buds start popping too early and we get severe frost like we had a couple of years ago, then there’s no peaches in the local area,” said Greg Havican, owner of Liz and George Farms on Edinboro Road in Summit Township.
Havican said that peaches account for 30-percent of his crops. He said the farm’s apple, pear, plum and cherry trees are all vulnerable, because of their early growing season.
Havican is looking to the weather forecast for hope.
“It’s supposed to cool down after four days here. So, hopefully, it will and that we don’t have any problems,” said Havican.
Your Weather Authority is forecasting above-average temperatures for most of the week.
For the latest weather conditions and forecasts, click here.