Here in my part of the Northeast, we’ve made it nearly to the end of March without having to wield our snow shovels more than once or twice, a nice surprise after a pre-Halloween storm that many of us thought might herald another rough winter. Instead, we’ve enjoyed unseasonably warm temperatures and an early start to the spring blooming season. Seemingly overnight, bright yellow forsythia and jonquils have exploded, trees are full of buds and winter’s brown landscape is rapidly transforming into spring’s many shades of green.
It’s a great thing for those of us whose temperaments flourish when temperatures rise, but what does it mean for the farmers who put food on our plates?
Plants are putting out buds early all over the country, and the warm winter also has bears coming out of hibernation earlier than they’re supposed to. Finding little wild food to forage, they are raiding farmers’ fields and taking a bite out of the season’s early crops, The Cornell Daily Sun reported. More deer than usual also survived the winter, and they’re nibbling the buds that fruit trees need to produce food later in the year.
Also around the country, consumers are increasingly seeking out local produce, according to a Mintel report released last week. More than half of consumers surveyed said local has become more important to them than organic, but growing hordes of locavores may have better luck in some markets than others.
March came into suburban Chicago like a lamb, pushing fruit trees to bud and gardeners to get started with their vegetable growing nearly a month ahead of schedule, but gardening experts warn it could be a costly false start, the Daily Herald reported Saturday. “I haven’t seen anything like this, and I’ve been working at the arboretum for 35 years,” said Ed Hedborn, manager of plant records at Morton Arboretum.
But cold weather may still be hovering, weather that could bring a hard frost as late as May and crush the hopes of growers looking to get a jump on the season’s farmers markets. “Not a lot of the produce we eat is grown without our region. But it could have a big impact on the burgeoning local foods effort where we see more and more people trying to grow stuff locally to get fresher and better tasting food,” said University of Illinois crop sciences professor Bruce Branham.
It’s not all bad news. In New Jersey, where meteorologists are predicting winter’s warm temperatures to hang around, the early start to the growing season may mean a more bountiful harvest of blueberries, tomatoes and corn this summer. According to The Star Ledger, the Garden State is also on track to get mosquitoes early and ticks in record numbers, and the warm winter kept bees active and eating up their food supplies when they would normally be dormant. The result: seriously depleted hives that will result in a dearth of honey this season. Still, farmers are looking on the bright side.
“Mother Nature always holds the advantage,” said Peter Furey, the New Jersey Farm Bureau’s executive director. “But when it’s warm like this, it gives the grower a little bit of a head start.”
By Janet Forgrieve on March 27th, 2012
Travel Spending in Michigan Up by 7.8% in 2011 Due to 'Pure Michigan' Branding and Rebounding Economy
Outlook for Another 6% Rise for 2012
By Ellen Creager, Detroit Free PressMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News March 27, 2012--Finally, the mojo is returning to the state's $17 billion tourism industry.
After a near-decade-long swoon, travel spending in the state jumped 7.8% last year -- partly due to Michigan's hot "Pure Michigan" branding and partly due to a rebounding economy.
This year, tourism spending should rise another 6%, according to a new Michigan State University tourism outlook report released today by MSU tourism researchers, who are speaking this morning at the Pure Michigan Governors Conference on Tourism here.
Tourism volume and prices in 2012 should rise 3%, the report forecasts, with strong showings statewide.
Tourism is the state's third largest industry after manufacturing and agriculture.
Even if gasoline is $4 a gallon this summer, it should not deter people who are determined to take a vacation, said Dan McCole, assistant professor of tourism at MSU.
Bad weather can affect tourism, but last year was 16% wetter and 3% cooler than normal and travel spending rose anyway, the report showed.
Travel spending data is based on state sales tax and use tax collections.
Due to the state's "Pure Michigan" national advertising campaign, last year was the first time that travel spending in Michigan by non-residents was higher than that of residents, Travel Michigan's Vice President George Zimmermann reported earlier. Last year, there were 3.2 million out-of-state visitors to Michigan who spent $1 billion, a fact highlighted by Gov.Rick Snyder in an appearance before 900 travel officials at the conference Monday night . He said the "Pure Michigan" campaign was enhanced by its partnerships with cities across the state.
"It shows what working together can do," he said.
Asked if the state 's annual tourism budget should be even higher than $25 million, he said although the state has finite resources, the return on investment for "Pure Michigan" dollars has been worthwhile .
(c)2012 the Detroit Free Press
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