Long winter gives greenhouse growers tough choices

By: Sarah Moon, AP Email
By: Sarah Moon, AP Email

MELROSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- This winter is one of the coldest on record in Western Wisconsin.

The colder temperatures are taking a toll on greenhouses like Tomato Patch in Melrose that use propane.

Manager Ann Strait said Tomato Patch locked its price like it does every year, but it’s using more propane.

“We are buying about 2,000 more btu’s than we usually do, which is about $2,000 more than what we normally pay for,” said Strait.

That extra $2,000 is only for one month.

Strait said the cold also means tomato patch doesn’t have the tomatoes customers want right now.

“We usually have the other buildings coming in at this time, but because it’s been colder, one building hasn’t come in like we had hoped to,” said Strait

Despite having to buy more propane, Tomato Patch will try to keep its prices the same as last year.

Strait said she hopes the tomatoes will come in strong.

She also hopes Tomato Patch will be able to sell everything cover the cost of extra propane.

“I’m very eager for summer to come,” said Strait.

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MELROSE, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin greenhouse growers are facing skyrocketing fuel costs this winter as extreme temperatures continue to plague the Midwest.

A Melrose grower who supplies restaurants and stores with tomatoes throughout the winter reportedly has monthly heating bills that have climbed past $10,000 for its greenhouses. That's 25 percent higher than normal.

The region's winter was the fifth coldest on record, driving up costs for propane amid shortages and rising demand. Farmers are left with an uncomfortable choice of passing on higher costs to consumers or absorbing them.

Some farmers are considering new ways to lock in lower prices for the future, including switching from propane to biomass and other fuels. But for now, the region's smaller agriculture operations may need to absorb the higher costs.


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