East Tennessee farmer opens produce market after ‘roller coaster’ spring weather

Local News

MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Flooding in February, fall-like temperatures into March, and rain totals that broke records across East Tennessee. These weather patterns, long forgotten by some, but for others with jobs that rely on the weather cooperating the impacts are still being felt. 

Take, for instance, East Tennessee farmers with summer crops that do their growing and blooming in the spring, when temperatures and weather was anything but predictable. 

Albert Coning has more than 60 years of farming experience says the only predictable part of the weather is that it’s hard to predict in East Tennessee. He’s used to adjusting crops, water levels, and greenhouse temperatures for produce to grow. 

“I didn’t get the light intensity like it should. It wasn’t as good as it has been,” said Coning. He’s referring to the tomato crop, impacted by days-in-a-row of rain and cooler temperatures in February and March. When sun was needed, it didn’t come. 

“We will be open when the tomatoes are ripe, but until then, we won’t be open,” said Coning. 

May 24th marked opening day for the Coning Family Farm Market’s 2019 summer season. He couldn’t open any earlier, he says, because the tomatoes weren’t ripe and ready. He’s at the mercy of the weather, and in this case, the tomatoes. 

“By the time they ought to be getting ripe, they were in the shade,” Coning said, “80 one day, 60 the next… a rollercoaster kind of thing.” 

The roller coaster isn’t anything new to this farmer who’s owned and operated the market for 25 years in Maryville. Instead, it’s a few more days wait to open. 

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