This was a great season for Vineyard farmers. There was plenty of warm sunshine and enough rainfall throughout most of the growing season. It was more normal than normal, says Jim Athearn of Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown.
Jim Norton of Bayes Norton Farm agrees. "Production in the fields was terrific. We did have periods of substantial rains. I didn't use irrigation once, which is unusual," he says. "It was particularly good for tomato plants. We had the best tomato crop that we've ever had. The weather was particularly cooperative."
The weather was just right for tourism and for growing. In years past those two forms of Island business haven't always been in agreement, but it happened this year. Rain in June, July and August was frequent enough, but there were few days when the clouds remained overcast for long.
Rainfall was average through the season. Total rainfall for June was 3.97 inches, more than an inch above normal. Rain in July was 2.7 inches, slightly above average and there were 6.11 inches of rain in August, more than 1.5 inches above normal. September was the driest of the growing months, 1.46 inches, half the average.
"I don't remember whether it was July or August, but we had a couple of light rains at night which was great. The temperatures were even," Mr. Athearn says.
The highest temperature recorded last summer came late. There were two days in August when the temperature at the National Weather Service cooperative station recorded 91 degrees in the shade. There were 20 days in August when the temperature reached 80 degrees or warmer, eight days in July and nine days in June.
"Corn was super," says Mr. Athearn. "Tomatoes were good, everything did quite well. There were no complete failures and we've usually had one or two."
This was also a good year for pumpkins, though farmers were tested. Mr. Athearn says: "Pumpkins got powdery mildew, but we picked them promptly and put them under cover, so the quality is even better."
Vineyard farmers and fishermen have one common perspective; they are more inclined to complain than to praise a season. Mr. Athearn says: "If it is a good year, people will forget it. I remember that the year 2001 was really good for corn. I might remember that."
Morning Glory Farm is now picking the last of the peppers and egg plant. "We can still pick carrots, beets, Swiss chard, lettuce and herbs," Mr. Athearn says.
Mr. Athearn says the family farm had great help this summer and there were plenty of customers. "We had a great crew. Sometimes it is the luck of the draw. This year they were cracker jack and nice folks and hard working. They had high principles," he says. "Business was good though not spectacular."
Mr. Norton says the early spring had some impact on his crops. "There was a hot spell in April and a dry spell in early May," he says. "Those two conditions created a situation for those things that were well established; they did well. Plants that had gotten started in that period were somehow behind."
Plants responded differently. Two corn plants side by side, planted at different times, behaved differently. "Some corn came on fast and some was held behind," Mr. Norton says. "It didn't make any difference for peas or tomatoes."
From this observation, Mr. Norton muses that odd weather early in the season can have a long-term impact on plants, even though the rest of the season is fine.
The last three years have been good for grapes, according to Cathy Mathiesen of Chicama Vineyards. She and her husband George own the Island's only Vineyard. "It was really quite good. We had enough rain; we had enough heat. It was a good growing season. The last three years have been good."
In North Tisbury people driving by the old Hillside Farm vegetable stand get their own report on the success of the season. The new business, Katama Apiary's Honey Bunch, has a sign posted in the window that serves as a message from all Island farmers: "Thank you for a great season."
Clarissa Allen of Allen Farm Sheep and Wool Company in Chilmark agrees with others about the season: "It was really good." They have 100 lambs grazing their fields now. Customers weren't just interested in wool sweaters. "People are looking for food. They don't just appreciate the vistas; they also appreciate the product. I saw wider interest. More shoppers are looking for locally raised organically grown food." This was a good season for the selling of lamb meat.
As for the fields, there was some need of rain and it came Tuesday night.
While frost has made its presence known across the Island, Mr. Norton says he has yet to have a killer frost.