Turek Farms seeing strong growing conditions in early June

corn33 Turek Farms, in the town of Genoa just south of King Ferry in Cayuga County, is the largest vegetable farm in Central New York and the third-largest in the entire state.

Jason Turek, a partner in both Turek Farms and its marketing arm, Cayuga Produce Inc., said New York-grown produce represents almost two-thirds of the company’s sales, so it’s vital that things go well there.

“Our focus is a year-round corn shipper,” he said. “Typically we would expect to get started in New York somewhere around July 20-25 and normally we would start planting somewhere around the 25th of April, but this year it was pushed back until the 13th of May.”

The reasons, he noted, was it was unseasonably cool for the entire Northeast, with ground temperatures in the 30s, and it just made for very unfavorable growing conditions.

“You just can’t plant in that environment,” Turek said. “Our season is definitely pushed back. We were even questioning if we would trim some acres because of COVID anyway, but Mother Nature trimmed our acres for us.”

Even with the bad weather, over the last weeks of May, Turek Farms has made up a lot of ground and conditions have been excellent in June.

Last year, most growers in New York struggled because of a wet, cool spring, and it caused Turek Farms to leave approximately 550 acres empty last year. Turek doesn’t expect a repeat of that in 2020.

“We’re getting to the point where we could actually use some rain, and I hate to wish for it, because sometimes you get more than you need, but in general, what we have in the ground looks good,” Turek said. “I think August is going to be a big month for us.”

Turek Farms ships its produce up and down the East Coast, from Maine to Miami, and naturally has a big buying contingent in its home state of New York.

“Corn grows well in New York because of the warm days and cool nights, with mineral soils that help add to the flavor,” Turek said. “When you grow a crop super-fast, it never seems to have the flavor when you have the temperate growing season.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously been a challenge for Turek Farms and early on, Turek was worried if there would be any customers to sell to by the time summer hit.

“Evidentially, we were wrong,” he said. “People are still going gang-busters. The chain stores have been busier than they’ve ever been. People are staying home and cooking. We went from thinking we wouldn’t have any labor and not growing any vegetables to being back on track in a short period of time.”

That uncertainty has caused Turek Farms to rethink its strategy for 2020.

“We are not going to plant anything extra or try anything out of our comfort zone this year, but we are hopeful that we will have a good season and crops are going to be good. We will give it all we have until the end,” Turek said. “It seems to me there is an increased demand for packaged produce—whether it’s bagged cabbage or tray-packed corn, I think it has changed our industry forever.”

Photo: Corn being harvested from Turek Farms.

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