Long winter gives greenhouse growers tough choices
MELROSE, Wis. — Wisconsin greenhouse growers are facing skyrocketing fuel costs this winter as extreme temperatures continue to plague the Midwest.
At least one Melrose grower who supplies restaurants and stores with tomatoes throughout the winter saw monthly heating bills climb past $10,000, the La Crosse Tribune reported Monday. That's 25 percent higher than normal.
"This last week is killing us," said Maria Kreidermacher, owner of Pork & Plants in Altura, Minn.
The region's winter was the fifth coldest on record, driving up costs for propane amid shortages and rising demand. Farmers now must choose whether to pass higher costs on to consumers or absorb 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 just keep paying.
"This winter's not making it look like it's that profitable," Kreidermacher said. "It seems like no matter what season of the year, it's extreme. I'm getting a little concerned that that's the norm.
"That's one of the things we're learning: Expect the unexpected."