Local produce thrives in heat wave

Submitted photo
Frecon Farms' peaches.
Submitted photo Frecon Farms' peaches.

Some like it hot.

While the near-100-degree days may be miserable for many, the weather is just perfect for the produce that is coming into season right now.

“The hotter the temperature, the sweeter the fruit,” said Steve Frecon, of Frecon Farms in Boyertown. “This hot weather is just what we’re looking for right now.”

Frecon said that the rain the area received in June was good for developing the size of this season’s peaches, blueberries and plums. And this month’s heat has accelerated things a bit.

“Once it gets this hot, things start to ripen quickly. It happens with corn, peaches and blueberries — the different varieties start ripening closer together,” he said. “All the sugar that was developed in the earlier part of the season is concentrated when it gets hot. The fruit loves this weather.”


Frecon added that the early peaches had good flavor, but he expects the next varieties will only get better and sweeter.

“Now that we’re in the heat of July — the varieties will be bursting with flavor,” he said.

Andrew Frankenfield, agriculture educator for Penn State Extension in Montgomery County, said he has also seen some acceleration in maturity of area produce.

“Typically in our area, we don’t often see our own corn come in by July 4 but we can get it from Lancaster County,” he said. “But I had sweet corn by the Monday after the Fourth this year There was some corn tasseling by the Fourth, so it’s been right on track or early.”

Chris and Rob Fry, who own The Farmer’s Daughter Farm Market on Route 724 in Spring City, said this is one of the best growing seasons they have seen so far, and they hope the ideal conditions continue throughout the remainder of the summer.

While temperatures above 90 can stress some crops, Frecon said the fruit trees have not impacted.

“There has been no stress on the trees, only on the people that have to work on the trees,” he added, saying the farm has adjusted its work hours a bit because of the heat.

Chris and Rob Fry and their team get out into the fields early before the day gets too hot to check on their crops and to harvest a variety of vegetables.

Frankenfield said corn can be sensitive to temperatures above 90-degrees; because this is the time the plants will begin to pollinate. He said that if the temperature gets too high, there is concern among farmers that the plants may not pollinate.

Frankenfield said that what was consistent throughout the spring and early summer was moisture, which was a challenge for hay farmers and the wheat farmers in the area, delaying their harvesting seasons. The rain also delayed the start of cherry picking by about three weeks, according to Frecon. But now, Frankenfield said it appears soil moisture is adequate.

“Corn will curl its leaves to keep moisture in, and we haven’t seen that this week (with the heat). That tells us there is good moisture in the soil,” he said. “If we catch an inch of rain again on Saturday — I don’t think there would be many unhappy farmers. That’s about what it takes each week for the crops.”

Frecon agreed, adding that the fruit trees take most of their moisture from the first couple of inches of surface soil. “We want some gentle evening rain and no drought through the fall — that will be perfect,” he said.

The Frecon family has been growing and selling produce in the Boyertown area since 1944, expanding through the years to include a retail store, “pick your own” in the fall and taking fresh fruit to farmer’s markets throughout the region. Frecon’s also hosts an annual Bluegrass Festival — The PickFest and launched Frecon’s Hard Cider — farm fresh, handcrafted hard ciders made with Frecon fruit.

The Farmer’s Daughter Farm Market has been at its current location since 2002. What started in 1984 as a half-acre of sweet corn sold out of the back of a truck, has grown to more than 40 acres of sweet corn and about 10 acres of vegetables and pumpkins.