At the end of September, when we stopped at the Wallkill View stand to buy sweet corn (a great year for it), I asked the clerk how long they’d be having corn. “Until the first killing frost,” she replied.
I responded “Be careful, you may not want to say that.” And when she looked at me quizzically, I said, “With climate change, the timing of the first frost is very elusive.”
Every farmer focuses on the first killing frost, and some years as a farmer, when I was exhausted, I prayed for a July frost! A 90-year-old dairy farmer friend from Claryville in the Catskills said he’d seen frost in every month of the year. When I asked him whether a July frost was an early or a late frost, he chuckled.
The first frost generally determines the length of the growing season, which in this area, might be 180 days. Our son, who farms in Essex, New York along Lake Champlain, has only a 100-day growing season.
Last weekend, we celebrated Ann’s birthday on the Rip Van Winkle ship on the Hudson in shirt sleeves in 70-degree weather. A part of me celebrated the global warming that has increased our comfort range – and our growing season.
But while relishing the unprecedented mild temperatures, the dark side of me realized that somewhere, glaciers were melting, sea levels were rising, and floods and droughts were the result. As we enjoy this balmy fall weather, let’s also be cognizant of the downside of a late first frost.