Area farmers reflect on growing season
Most report up and down year

By GAY GRIESBACH - For the Daily News

Oct. 24, 2017

Ly Veng arranges onions at her stand at the West Bend Farmers’ Market on Saturday in West Bend. The final Farmers’ Market of the season in West Bend is Saturday.
Gay Griesbach/For the Daily News

A bounty of everything from apples to watermelon were available Saturday at the West Bend Farmers’ Market and so were growers willing to talk about their season.

“Too much rain, then not enough,” Ly Veng said.

Veng has two fields – one in Racine and one in Oak Creek. After planting the Racine field, there was so much rain her crop was a total loss, but Veng said her Oak Creek field did OK.

Nearly 7 inches of rain fell in Racine County between July 11-12, washing out roads and fields and prompting the county to declare a state of emergency.

By August, portions of Iowa, central Illinois and southern Michigan had less than 75 percent of normal precipitation, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Centers for Environmental Information. “It was a struggle sometimes to get planted. It was one of the wettest seasons in 30 years,” Ray Knapp said.

However, Knapp described the rest of the season as “outstanding.”

John McConville of Farm Happy in Jackson sets out more produce.
Gay Griesbach/For the Daily News

The West Bend area farmer specializes in growing 500 types of seed tomatoes that are distributed worldwide. In addition to the watermelon, squash, peppers and turnips at his stand were cabbages — some weighing more than his scale, which only goes up to 13 pounds, could measure.

Knapp has already harvested 30,000 pounds of cabbage from a 3-acre field and has that much more to go.

“We’ll be selling through January,” Knapp said.

Frost is expected in the area this week, the official end of the growing season. But, in addition to Knapp’s produce, Barthel Farm on Farmdale Road in Mequon will have apples available until Christmas .

Farm manager Sue Knudsen said a late frost nipped the lower branches on the trees, but didn’t have much of an impact.

The farm, which grows strawberries, peas, plums, squash and 23 types of apples, was safe from the more damaging effects of late frosts because of their proximity to Lake Michigan, Knudsen said.

Usually two weeks behind Madison’s growing season, where Barthel’s also has a stand at the farmer’s market, this year milder temperatures put them in line with those local harvests which are 85 miles away from Lake Michigan’s climate.

While many experienced growers used tried and true crops and methods, John McConville of Farm Happy in Jackson spent the season branching out. Known for their spring mix and tomatoes, they added turnips and wine cap mushrooms to top off a successful year.

“I didn’t know turnips were so good,” McConville said.

McConville said they grew the mushrooms, similar to portabellas, in wood chips in a shady spot between berries and asparagus and using row covers helped keep pests off the turnip crop.

The West Bend Farmers’ Market has one more date remaining this season, 7:30-11 a.m. Saturday on the city’s Main Street.