I must preface this blog entry by admitting that I perhaps spoke too soon in titling my December blog entry (“The cold sets in”). The winter of 2017 is shaping up to be, at least in our neck of the woods, one of those winters that simply was not to be. The unseasonable warmth, I noticed, was a very popular topic of conversation at the All-Hands Gathering last week. I have read that the average person spends 5 months out of their life talking about the weather- I suspect that we farmers may be bringing that average way up, because I suspect that number should be more like 5 years in our case.
To get the agricultural angst out of the way first; yes, it has many farmers, myself included, a little on edge. The fact that we are seeing mainly alternating periods of sustained warmth and cold, with few days of the kind of above-below freezing night/day swings that is necessary for sap flow does not bode well for a bountiful maple syrup harvest, but I’m trying to compensate the only way anyone can- by tapping more trees. For agriculture in general, warm winters tend to mean pests and disease abound, and the possibility of early bud break followed by killing frosts.
Now, after a deep breath, I remember something that we were reminded of at the Gathering: the story of Appalachians (and farmers in general, and Appalachian farmers especially) is one of resilience. We are nothing if not persistent, ready to adapt to whatever nature and the world at large throw our way. That being said, I feel ready for anything the season has to throw at us; a soggy spring, a scorching summer, aphids abound, blight bonanza… we’ll make it work.