Farmers hoping for a better 2013
Remember last March? Farmers certainly do. It felt like summer. And it was the start of what would be a tough year for farmers.

Today, March 12th, 2013: The temperature is expected to be around 38 degrees.
March 12th, 2012: The temperature hit 69 degrees. (According to National Weather Service Data)

Also according to NWS, on March 21st, the temperature in South Bend reached 85 degrees. Those high temperatures caused big problems for local fruit farmers. 

And fruit farmers weren't the only ones who suffered in 2012.

2012 was one of the warmest years on record and the much needed rain didn't come until too late -- not a good combination for growing corn.

Fruit Farms

5th generation fruit farmer Kenny Stover is much happier than he was a year ago.

"This year, we are certainly off to a better start," said Stover as he took WSBT into his U-pick orchard along Michigan highway 139.

It's off to a better start, because nothing has started growing yet. Stover and his family grow 18 different fruits and vegetables, including apples, pears, peaches and apricots on their Berrien Springs farm. For the Stover family and most fruit farmers in Michigan, 2012 was a bad year.

"Last year, other than sweet cherries and strawberries, we probably were at an 85% to 90% loss on apples, peaches, apricots, nectarines and plums," said Stover.

That's because in March 2012, temperatures reached the 80's and then stayed warm for several days causing fruit trees to bud about two months early. Then in April, overnight freezes killed most of the buds on those trees. Because of that, many trees weren't able to produce fruit and the ones that did, didn't produce a lot. According to Stover, farmers lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue because of that.

"As a group in whole, its millions (of dollars) for the state of Michigan. It wasn't just our region; it was the entire state," said Stover.

Corn Farmers

We met up with Chad Zahner last week while snow was still on the ground.

"It's a little different from last year," laughed Zahner as he looked out over a snowy field.

Zahner grows corn, beans and wheat near Wakarusa and nothing has been planted yet. That is normal for early March. Corn and bean planting doesn't start picking up until mid to late April.

"Last year at this time, we were knifing anhydrous," said Zahner. "A friend of ours, on March 17th, he planted corn. He said the air was 85 and the ground was 72 already so that means we had heat already."

It wasn't the early spring that hurt his corn crop. It was the summer heat and lack of rain. Zahner says corn needs cooler nighttime temperatures and timely rains to grow, pollinate and produce. Last year, nothing seemed to work in his favor.

In an average year, Zahner says he can get between 125 and 225 bushels per acre on corn. But last year, he was lucky to get 100.

"Everyone will always compare back to 2012," said Zahner. "That was the worst drought."

No one was happy with 2012. All farmers can do now, though, is hope for a better 2013.