Monday, April 22, 2013

The winter that wouldn't end in Minnesota

2012 spoiled us. I remember dragging my patio set out of storage on the first weekend of March and enjoying a grilled meal outside on a Friday evening. Today is about seven full weeks later (plus an additional year) and the temperature has yet to crack 60 degrees. To make matters more frustrating, the forecast for tonight includes 6-10 inches of snow. On top of the 12 or so inches we had late last week. Not to mention the 6 or so inches we accumulated back on April 11th.

To city slickers, snow in April is an inconvenience. They want to, like I did last year, get their patio sets out of storage and fire up the grill. For others, like my parents on their southern Minnesota farm, the seemingly endless winter means lengthy delays to the start of the season. When it snows towards the end of April we can almost be assured that the snow will melt fast but that rapid melt means saturated soil. Not an entirely bad thing being we had a pretty horrible drought last year which left soil parched.

That saturated soil, though, takes a while to dry out and warm up. The continued cool temperatures -- predicted to skyrocket all the way close to a normal 60 degrees for the upcoming weekend -- do far less than sunshine and warm temperatures to dry the soil. Combine that with the lack of warmth and you are left with soggy, cold soil which is far from ready for seeds of any kind. While I am fretting about my burgeoning farmer's market-sized garden plot, my parents are stuck wonderng how many weeks it will be before they are ready to get tractors into their fields.

As of Saturday they were saying that a realistic guess is for the first field work to begin around May 15th. While that may not sound bad to those unfamiliar with life outside the 494/694 loop, a May 15th date is closer to when my parents are normally done planting their crops for the year putting them a full three weeks behind normal. While three weeks doesn't sound too bad to some, it means a growing season that is starting a full three weeks later giving crops three weeks less time to mature and with the continued cool and wet weather, it's a fair guess that this weather will continue much the same for at least a few weeks into what we normally consider to be summer which only puts crops even further behind.

That mess of factors means lower yields due to the shorter growing season. The shorter yields mean more demand in the markets for less product and that means a more competitive marketplace which drives prices higher. Those higher prices mean higher prices for all kinds of food you and I purchase at grocery stores.

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