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Early Warm Weather A Risk, Reward For MN Farmers

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SCANDIA, Minn. (WCCO) — For most Minnesotans, the weather good news just keeps coming. But some farmers are holding their breath.

“That’s the part of farming. Every year is different and this year it’s super early,” said Natura Farms manager Paul Otten.

After thirty years of growing berries, Otten says he’s never seen buds turned green by March.

“This is by far the earliest,” Otten said.

Natura Farms in Scandia, Minn. produces naturally grown fruits and veggies, and specializes in berries.

The prospect of frost is making farmers, like Otten, a little nervous.

Lucky for strawberries, there is an option to protect the berries. Otten says farmers will opt to leave the winter cover on for as long as possible.

“We just as well have ‘em grow later, then we maybe avoid the frost entirely,” Otten said.

Not as lucky are exposed grape vines and apple trees. Just one cold night can have dire consequences.

“It can wipe out the crop for the year,” Otten said. “Like a child, just when he or she is born, that’s when it’s the most tender and the most susceptible to environment stresses.”

Obviously, any time crops are wiped out, prices can be affected. The farmers say if frost does damage this year’s crop, the magnitude won’t be known for months.

The early spring does not treat all equally. For cattlemen, this green grass means more green in their pocket.

The Minnesota Cattlemen’s Association says they are already seeing cattle grazing green pastures, which is saving them big money on feed.

While this season might belong to the cattlemen, all good farmers know, next year could be different.

“This is the thing about farming, you never know,” Otten said.

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