Warm winter, lack of water could hurt local crops, farmers say

Posted at 10:11 PM, Mar 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-31 00:11:15-04

RIVERTON, Utah -- For small farms in Utah it’s been an early start to the planting season.

“About a month, at least a month -- we’re at least a month early,” said Luke Petersen, owner of Petersen’s Family Farm in Riverton.

The hot spring is not all good news.  Crops like carrots, beets and kale are planted every year, relying on rain to help them get started.

"We don't receive any water until April 15.  So it doesn't matter how warm or cold it is, that's when our water year starts,” said Petersen of his irrigation.

On the horizon, more problems with water could be brewing.

"In fact our water company just sent us a letter saying that they are going through all their records and making sure that people are only getting the water that they are allotted," Petersen said.

Dealing with consumer expectations could also be an issue.

“People think that we’re going to have just a real amazing farm year this year because we didn’t really have winter,” said Jack Wilbur with the Utah Department of Agriculture.

Wilbur said that may not happen and the early heat can be a problem.

"The pest problem is probably going to be a lot worse than usual.  Weeds are going to be a lot worse than usual," Wilbur said.

Some consumers bought into the farm early.  Community Supported Agriculture or CSA shares are sold throughout the year.  Farms like Petersen’s, get prepaid for weekly deliveries of vegetables later in the summer.

"They're not going to get more vegetables, but they're going to get them earlier," Petersen said.

He also warned that farming is not an exact science.

Wilbur echoed the same sentiment, warning people not to expect too much just because the spring has been unusually warm.

“We could have some late frosts that hurt things that got planted earlier than normally would,” Wilbur said.