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Higher Temperatures Take Toll On Local Farms

Mild winter weather may mean fewer layers and lower heating bills, but it's also messing with some farmers’ crops. At Garfield Community Farm in Pittsburgh’s East End, director John Creasy said the temperatures mean plants that should be dormant until spring are confused, including garlic, which Creasy said they planted in late October and early November.

“It’s like the last thing you put in the ground outside of a green house," explained Creasy. "When it gets really warm like it has been that garlic really starts to grow a lot more in the fall than it should. What you want is the roots to grow, but not the greens to really come up at all. And right now in our garlic patch we have garlic plants that are full out of the ground growing."

He said when the cold does eventually arrive it will damage the garlic that’s grown and will likely impact their garlic crop for the season. Creasy said they rely on the forecast to make plans at the farm. For example, they completed an unheated greenhouse in November, typically too late to plant anything. But the forecast called for more than a week of temperatures above freezing.

“So went ahead and got seeds in the ground inside the greenhouse and now things are growing in there, and that’s a good thing right now, now we have a harvest of micro greens that we’re able to sell," he said. 

While the greenhouse’s success has been a nice, Creasy said overall the warm weather isn’t a good thing for the farm because the perennials are adversely affected.

“For the most part everybody knows that it’s bad news when weather is way out of whack," he said. 

Garfield Community Farm sits on 2.5 acres at the top of a hill. It houses gardens, green houses and a community gathering space. The nonprofit grows vegetables for the surrounding hilltop community. It also sells some of its produce to local restaurants.