You’ve probably seen the Farmer’s Almanac around for years, maybe in a small grocery store or general store, or at your grandparents’ house. Countless friends have told stories of their grandparents swearing by the Farmer’s Almanac, checking its weather predictions for the year as well as its planting guides. But it also provides general cooking tips and recipes, home remedies for sickness, jokes, and hunting and fishing tips. You can even learn random facts about natural phenomena such as heat lightening or information on all different types of rice. This eclectic collection of traditional knowledge seems to be surprisingly accurate at times, and at other times pretty far off the mark. In a world of increasing technology, traditional knowledge is often scoffed at, but their weather predictions are generally accurate about 80% of the time . I would say that 80% is pretty swell considering their predictions are done two years in advance and are based off of a top-secret formula that includes “sunspot activity, tidal action, the position of the planet, and many other factors.” According to the Farmer’s Almanac, this coming summer “will bring near-normal temperatures, on average, with the hottest periods in early to mid-June, mid-to late July, and mid-to late August. Rainfall will be below normal in the north and above in the south. Watch for a tropical storm threat in mid-July.” And if you’re a gardener, this week is a “barren period,” good for killing pests, cultivating, or taking a vacation.
All of their planting guidelines for gardeners are based off the cycles of the moon, which sounds surprisingly new-agey to be part of such a traditional magazine. This is what I find most fascinating about the Farmer’s Almanac—it’s used by many gardeners and people interested in living a sustainable and simple life but it is based off of ideas that many today would call superstitious. It is a beautiful, seemingly antiquated, publication that pays attention to the natural cycles of the earth and has learned to work with them for the better cultivation of plants. You always hear of people out in the sticks who can predict crazy weather patterns based on something seemingly unrelated—there is a man in the NC Mountains who can predict the number of snows every winter based on the number of foggy mornings in August. He puts a bean in a jar every morning with fog and at the end of August he counts them out and can tell you how many light dustings and how many big snows the area will get—and he’s usually almost spot on. This is the kind of knowledge that the Farmer’s Almanac publishes, and some people still use it!
I was curious to know if any of the farmers we work with use The Farmer’s Almanac or if they had any opinions about it, so I called up Gary Wise and Vernon Britt to hear their thoughts.
Gary Wise, of Wise Farms in Mount Olive, NC, does use the Farmer’s Almanac, but not as much as he used to. His wife and father-in-law both use it a lot. Gary uses it for suggestions for when to plant but his father-in-law uses the home remedies and cooking tips as well. When I asked him if he found it to be accurate he said: “Well, it makes me feel better to have something to go off of.” He doesn’t think that modern farmers use it and seems to use it more as a way to start off the season.
Vernon Britt of Britt Farms in Mount Olive, also uses The Farmer’s Almanac. His ancestors swore by it and he uses it at the beginning of the season when they’re seeding everything in the greenhouse. He tries his best to go by the planting dates but once the season picks up and they get really busy it is harder to stay with the calendar. “If we have time to do something one day then we’d better do it,” he explained of his busy summer season. He does believe that the Farmer’s Almanac’s planting guide works, as his experience has always been positive.
However, according to this Modern Farmer article, no farmers use the Farmer’s Almanac anymore; it is often much easier to just look at a seven-day weather forecast when trying to plan your week, echoing Gary Wise’s assumption. But, personally, I’m glad it’s still out there—where else are you going to look for information on the best day to wax your floors, dig holes, potty train your children, or get married? Need the best guide to stargazing for the summer? Guess where you’re going to find it…The Farmer’s Almanac, it seems, is a phenomenon that just keeps going and no one quite knows how or why. Will it last the next 100 years? Only time will tell. Curious about what all the hype is about? Check out their website at farmersalmanac.com for a plethora of information along with an almanac blog!