Tupelo Farmer's Market update: Cold, wet weather hurts some farmers, helps others

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tupelo Farmers’ Market vendors say spring weather has been downright ornery, but they have managed to rise above it and bring their crops out of the fields anyway.
“The weather has treated us like a red-headed stepchild,” said James Hall of the Wise Family Farm in Pontotoc County. “It’s been one of the hardest years I’ve ever seen, and I’m 70 years old.”
According to Andy Sniezak, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Memphis, temperatures in March, April and May have all been below normal for the Tupelo area.
“March was the worst,” Sniezak said. “We were six degrees below normal.”
And to add insult to injury, Sniezak said, the spring has also been particularly rainy. Through noon Tuesday, the area had seen 30.38 inches of rain, about three inches above normal for the year.
“The rain has just killed it,” said Mike Bucci of Greenwood Springs, who was at the market Tuesday with green beans, new potatoes, canned goods and blueberries.
“You can’t get in there to plant, and when you do plant, it’s too much rain on it,” he said. “We complain about not getting enough rain and complain about getting too much. The only thing it’s helped are my blueberries.”
Jimmy Sheffield of Mooreville said he’s already lost at least half of his tomato crop.
“We’re better off if we can drip them, put our own water to it,” he said. “But we don’t control the weather. My zucchini vines died on me and my watermelons have been hurt bad. They’re probably set back three weeks. All that cold weather we had stunted them.”
Still, Sheffield had an impressive assortment of onions, radishes, squash, cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans and peppers.
“I guess we rush it sometimes,” Sheffield said. “We try to be the early bird down here at the market and you pay for it sometimes.”
William Tucker of Shannon had no problems with the rain on his tomatoes, because he grows them in a hoop house.
“The weather slowed it down early, but right now everything is looking real fine,” Tucker said. “We picked 200 pounds of tomatoes yesterday.”
Tucker also had blackberries, Zephyr squash, cucumbers and white baking potatoes for sale.
Billy Daniels of Belden, who had squash, tomatoes and cucumbers, said early cold weather and late rains have put him about three weeks behind schedule.
“Overall, we’re going to be pretty good,” he said. “But this time last year, this place would have been full.”
On Tuesday, there were eight vendors selling goods. There are 26 permanent stalls at the market, which is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 6 a.m. until about noon.
Evie Carney of Baldwyn had an assortment of lettuces, kale, onions, zucchini, beets, new potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbage on Tuesday. But her strawberries were the star of the show.
“The weather has been great for my strawberries,” she said. “I think it will stay cool enough for them to stretch into July. And our tomatoes came in three weeks ago, which was wonderful. We’re a little bit hilly where we live so some of the drain has drained off. It hasn’t hurt us as much as some of the farmers in the bottoms.”

ginna.parsons@journalinc.com