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Frigid Winter, Unseasonably Cool Spring Stunting Local Crops

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RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork)The chilly spring so far has stalled the growing season for local farmers.

On Long Island – where early crops are normally going strong this time of year – there are delays that will soon impact prices.

As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, Dark Horse Restaurant in Riverhead is once again serving up local produce following the harsh winter.

“People can just tell it’s fresh, it’s a great sense of community when you’re able to buy locally,” restaurant manager Ross Cumming said.

But soon, restaurant owners and consumers across Long Island and beyond may notice that the fresh produce grown locally isn’t coming to market in the normal time frame. Some crops are up to a month late.

“Oddly enough, the almanac called for a warmer than normal April, it didn’t happen,” Wells Homestead Acres farmer Lyle Wells told Gusoff.

Wells’ family has been farming Long Island’s East End since the 1600s and said spring has sort of stalled.

The extra-long winter and cold spring has prevented him from planting the zucchini he would have by now.

And his snap peas – which would be a foot high by May – are still tiny seedlings, Gusoff reported.

“It’s been way too cold for the soil temperature to warm up where we can germinate seeds,” said Wells.

Because of the unseasonably chilly spring, asparagus is sprouting weeks late and grape vines have yet to bud.

The extended cold weather has also delayed lettuce, spinach and strawberries.

“This year, for whatever reason, things seem to be fairly late, about three weeks. So, it’s gonna have gaps in the market,” said Joe Gergela, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau.

The delay could mean higher prices in the market and less time to enjoy the local harvest.

Farmstands will soon be filled with East End produce, but a compressed season hurts their bottom line, too.

“People say ‘oh, you’ll catch up.’ Well, you can’t catch up because November comes when November comes,” farmstand owner Susan Wells told Gusoff.

Dark Horse restaurant has had to get creative, substituting kale for the delayed asparagus. The restaurant manager added they’ll stick with local even if it costs more because they think it’s worth it.

Apple blossoms are also blooming late. That could shorten the apple season in the fall.

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