Severe weather threatens summer crops

Downpours, possibility of hail has strawberry farmers preparing for the worst
Severe weather threatens summer crops

Any farmer knows the business is a risky one, one that relies on Mother Nature doubling as a sort of Lady Luck.

This week Cindy Secher and Dale Secher know that as well as anyone. The couple owns and runs Carandale Farms in Oregon, and for a few weeks every year they have to take their chances on their strawberry crop.

“It’s our gamble. This is our casino. People in agribusiness, we gamble every day,” Cindy Secher said.

Last year parts of their berry crop were ruined when a foot of rain fell on the fields during picking season.

Dale Secher said that kind of heavy rain can essentially water log the fruit and increase the potential for disease. In addition, it delays his crew and pick-your-own customers from harvesting ripe fruit before it goes bad.

“Some rain would be good with the heavy mulch that we use, it really breaks the impact from the raindrop,” Dale Secher said. “So heavy rain, heavy storms aren’t too much of a problem, but if you have splash-up on the fruit that can create some issues.”

“We need some rain right now, we could certainly use the rain,” Cindy Secher said. “We don’t want a hard, driving rain. Nice soft, gentle rain would be awesome. Couple inches would be great.”

The Sechers hope to open up the farm to the public on Wednesday, but as always, that is pending any weather issues.

Customers bought 1,000 quarts of pre-picked berries from Carandale Farms on Monday.

A strawberry operation can be a good income source, but it can also be a big money pit, the Sechers said. Farmers investment in it with the possibility of getting bombed out with the weather or insects or disease.

Dale Secher said there are precautions farmers can take to alleviate the impact of weather events on their crops. For instance, rows of mulch and straw the Sechers have put in between rows of strawberry plants help soak up excess water and prevent splash-up.

Dale Secher said regardless of what happens with weather this week, he will keep playing the odds until his son takes over the family business.

“Well let’s put it this way, we learn how to play the game a lot better,” Dale Secher said.