Local farmers adapt to cold

first_img Luisa DePaiva walked among four narrow soil beds, gently lifting the fabric blanketing them inside a covered hoop house. A steady, cold rain pattered against the plastic roof overhead.It’s early March, but the growing season at Purple Rain Vineyard and other Clark County farms is well under way. For DePaiva, it was time to check on her seedlings young spinach, kale, lettuce and other greens growing under the protection of a somewhat controlled indoor environment. DePaiva liked what she saw.“They’re looking quite beautiful,” said DePaiva, who runs the farm with her husband, James Voisin.Clark County growers are used to working around bad weather conditions. Purple Rain, a small certified organic farm near Hockinson, is no different. But in each of the last two years, local farms have been hamstrung by unusually cold, wet conditions into early summer. Things were so bad, the U.S. Department of Agriculture activated disaster relief programs to help recoup losses for both years. That includes emergency loans announced just last month, and available to growers in Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties who saw crop damages during the first half of 2011.“The rain basically never stopped,” said Taylor Murray, who leads a local branch of the Farm Service Agency.But only a handful of Southwest Washington farms have applied for such federal aid programs. Many view them as geared more toward huge wholesale operations, not the small community farms much more common in the region. Others say the programs simply aren’t worth the trouble, or the cost it takes to insure crops for eligibility in some cases.Local farms mostly opt to work around whatever Mother Nature throws at them just like they’ve always done.“You can’t beat her,” said Liz Nelson, owner of Heavenly Bounty outside Battle Ground. “So you have to do your best to fool her.” A “hoop house” protects young plants from cold weather at Purple Rain Vineyard in Hockinson.last_img

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