Farmers feeling the heat ahead of another heat wave in Western Washington

As the temperatures in our area creep toward the triple digits, local farmers are bracing for the heat while many of their crops are still suffering from the repercussions from the first wave in June.

On a beautiful summer day, people flock to Mountainview Blueberry Farm in Snohomish to pick berries and take a stroll through the sunflower fields.

"Having a blueberry farm is like having a pet turtle, you hand it onto the next person," says farm owner Keith Stocker. As a 4th generation farmer, Stocker and his family know a thing about berries, but this season they’ve been thrown a curveball.

"The plants are loaded with fruit as you can see, but they stopped gaining weight after the heat. The plants decided they were gonna kind of put the brakes on and save their moisture, so instead of putting that moisture out into fruit and making a bigger berry, they've just kind of stopped at that point," says Stocker.

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We can attest, the berries are still delicious, just not as big as they usually would be. On a day when Stocker says they would normally pick one thousand pounds, they’re getting 800. He says it’s still too early to tell, but estimates harvest could end up being down 20%. And because the fruit is ripening faster, the season could end up being shorter. "In a normal year we might be out here until Labor Day, I’m not so sure that that’s gonna stretch out that far this year if the warm weather continues."

Stocker says his pumpkins he grows for fall are thriving in the heat. But the unseasonably warm temps have not been kind to his winter crop.  "That heat did a lot of damage in the Christmas tree seedlings, so you’re gonna hear about that come November when people are trying to buy a Christmas tree and they find supplies are short."

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Wheat farmers in Eastern Washington have been hit especially hard by this particularly hot and dry summer. When it comes to the severity of the financial impact and supply chain, stocker believes it is too soon to tell. "You're not a farmer if you're not an optimist, let’s just say that."

Stocker says his biggest concern for the next few days is the weather will keep people away while the fruit is ripe and ready to be picked. He says early morning picking is a great way to beat the heat.

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