Unseasonably cold weather sets back local farm practices

Decline of April temps puts grief on area's growers

If April showers bring May flowers, then what do April snowstorms bring?

For farmers in Greene County, it’s stress. 

Record-breaking cold temperatures and flurries have raised concerns of those within the agriculture business in Greene County. While snow in April might seem novel to some, for farmers like Jim Cowell, owner of Frosty Springs Farm in Waynesburg, it’s a nightmare. 

“This weather is discouraging for a farmer because you have plans and you know what you need to get done, but you can’t get it done,” Cowell said. “Everybody is behind this year.”

In terms of being behind, Cowell said that everything from his crops to his livestock will be impacted by this weather-related setback. 

“You can’t even try to get the equipment out on the field,” Cowell said. “I’m also starting to run out of hay because the cattle can’t eat the grass yet, not to mention they are all dirty and muddy and they hate laying on the wet ground. It’s especially tough on them.”

Cowell, who has owned Frosty Springs Farm since 1974, said this cold season is one of the worst he has ever had to endure in the business.

“I’ve been farming for a long time, and from what I can remember, we have never had a winter or a spring like this one,” Cowell said. “Last summer was wet, and it feels like it’s just continuing.”

Farmers aren’t the only ones who are being impacted by the cold weather in Greene County. Kevin Paul, owner of Fencerows Farmer’s Market, said he too is worried about the weather and how it might impact the produce he sells.

“Some of the people I’ve talked to who are trying to get things planted are falling behind,” Paul said. “I guess we’ll have to see how the crops turn out.”

Paul said the crop season, which officially starts in June, will be his “saving grace” if all else fails. However, he said he is worried about this year’s corn production because corn is one of his best-selling produce items during the summer.

“I know there are [farmers] that like to get corn in now so they can have it ready for July, but I doubt they’ll be able to get it in the ground,” said Paul. “That really worries me.”

Despite his concerns, Paul said he is trying to stay positive, and he still thinks the year could be profitable for him. 

“I don’t know anybody who is pushing the panic button yet,” Paul said. “If we had another weekend close to 80 [degrees], the ground could dry up pretty fast. I’m still expecting it to be a good year, it will just be a little later, that’s all.”

Only 8.9 miles away from Fencerows Farmer’s Market, there is one agricultural business in Greene County that happens to be benefitting from the cold weather: Thistlethwaite Vineyards. 

For Rick Thistlethwaite, owner of Thistlethwaite Vineyards in Jefferson, the cold weather is more of a blessing than a curse. 

“Our cold weather here is not really affecting us, but it’s actually helping us to keep the grapes from budding, which is better for us in the long run,” Thistlethwaite said. “If we could hold out the bud break on our vines, we are less susceptible to frost.”

While Thistlethwaite said he is thankful for the cold weather, he is still hoping it doesn’t get too cold, or else it could have adverse effects. 

“As long as the temperature stays moderate, we’ll be alright,” Thistlethwaite said. “If it gets down to zero [degrees] or below, there is so much water in the trunks of the vines, they would freeze.”