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Turek Farms in a New York state of mind

As of early June, Jason Turek, a partner in both King Ferry, NY-based Turek Farms and its marketing arm, Cayuga Produce Inc., said its growers were in the midst of harvest in Georgia on sweet corn and planting Labor Day corn in New York. It’s also finishing up pumpkin planting in the latter state.

New York-grown produce represents almost two-thirds of the company sales, so it’s vital that things go well there. Thankfully, that appears to be the case in 2018.

IMG 3170 “If you had asked me in April how things looked, I would have said we’d be really behind on things because the last Sunday of the month it snowed, but four days later it was 85 degrees and we started planting,” Turek said. “We had a record-warm May and we made up a lot of ground. Crop-wise, we are on schedule.”

In 2017, the growing season was flooded out three times with monsoon-type rains, which damaged its vine crops and a substantial amount of land was left empty because it couldn’t get things planted in time.

“We kind of button up to our tail end of the season usually near a frost so we can only go so long before we get into trouble, and you just can’t double up your planting the following week,” Turek said. “You can’t get them harvested or sold, so leaving those acres empty last year was a necessity. I hate to jinx myself this year, but we seem to be rolling along the way we want to.”

Growing successfully in the state of New York, he added, takes experience and paying attention to what’s happened before. In other words, Turek Farms doesn’t stray too far from what it did the year before and repeats what has worked year after year.

“New York has some pretty awesome weather most summers and usually can make for some really nice crops, especially your buying crops,” Turek said. “The nights are cool and the days are warm, and vegetables grow at a nice pace like they should. We’re on mineral soils and you can taste the difference.”

That’s something Turek’s grandfather used to say, and he believes that to be true. “Our cool nights put some flavor into the crops,” he said.

The company 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.

Turek Farms also partners with Cornell University and Primus Labs to implement the latest advances in biological control to reduce pesticide use in its fields.

“I’m an alum and my uncle is an alum, so it’s just a great resource to use in your backyard,” Turek said. “We try to utilize them and also do a lot of our testing with all the major seed companies. We usually have two or three different seed trials on the farm each year to try new varieties and see what’s up and coming.”

Weather is still the biggest challenge about growing in New York, though labor issues are quickly catching up. Turek admitted the H-2A program is very cumbersome and aggravating but it’s the only alternative at this point.

“If someone had told me when I was a little kid aspiring to be a farmer that my days would be filled up with paperwork and forms and compliance, I may have thought differently about farming,” he said.