TRAVERSE CITY -- Cold weather keeps Leelanau County strawberry grower Gary Bardenhagen up at night.
Not worrying, so much, but working to keep Jack Frost away from this year's crop, a stress familiar to other area farmers and growers who struggle to fight off the effects of an unseasonably cool spring.
Bardenhagen spent several recent nights pouring water on his strawberry fields near Leland to make sure the fruit doesn't freeze before it's ready to be picked in a couple of weeks.
"We've got some surplus water in some of the fields; we've had to water so much," he said.
Local growers and agricultural officials said nagging cold hasn't yet created any widespread damage to northern Michigan's fruit and field crops. But some harvests will be delayed and yields are expected to be low for early-season hay and wheat.
Unrelenting chilliness also means farmers will have to wait to get their products to area farm markets or to processors, and anxious consumers won't be able to enjoy many of their fresh favorites as soon as usual.
Joy Urka's family operates u-pick strawberry fields near Kingsley and Brethren. Most years she's ready to open by next week, but this year's crop is a week to 10 days behind schedule.
Urka hopes her customers -- some travel hundreds of miles to pick at her patch -- don't show up before berries ripen.
"What we tell people is to call before they start their journey," said Urka, who's also been watering fields to prevent frost damage. "It's been cold."
Sandee Ware, of Ware Farm near Bear Lake in Manistee County, has had her share of sleepless nights while tending strawberries, and cold weather also diminished the farm's trademark asparagus production.
"It slows it down so much, it hardly grows at all," Ware said of the asparagus crop. "We've had several vendors we couldn't supply at all this year because it's been so cold."
Early spring featured slightly above average temperatures for March and April, but the weather took a chilly turn in May, said meteorologist Jeff Halblaub, of the National Weather Service office in Gaylord.
May temperatures averaged almost two degrees below normal, he said, with an average high temperature of just under 65 degrees. The Weather Service recorded four days with below-freezing temperatures in May in Traverse City, including a low of 27 degrees on May 11. A typical May doesn't have any days with sub-freezing temperatures, he said.
The chilly period is the result of a locked-in weather pattern the past few weeks over the east side of the Northern Pacific Ocean. The system created summer-like conditions in parts of Alaska, warm and dry weather over the normally showery Pacific Northwest, and repeated heavy rains in southern Midwest states like Arkansas, Halblaub said.
"It gives you some idea how odd this weather pattern is," he said.
The fallout on northern Michigan: a steady stream of cold, Canadian air that shows no sign of moving out anytime soon. The pattern is expected to continue at least the next week to 10 days, Halblaub said.
"We're struggling just to get back to normal," he said.
Degree day readings for the five-county area are monitored by Michigan State University and are used to track plant and insect development. Statistics show the area's accumulated heating anywhere from one-to-three weeks behind long-term averages.
Cold weather and long stretches without rain stunted the region's hay crop, meaning reduced early season supply and higher costs for local cattle and horse owners.
"It's definitely going to be a light first-cutting hay crop," said Buckley farmer Frank Lipinski. "The tonnage is just not going to be there."
Lipinski grows sweet corn, too, and covers some small sections in a dark fabric to keep the corn warmer, an effort to ensure an earlier harvest. Lipinski's covered corn is about a half-foot taller than corn left open to the elements, ample evidence cold weather slowed crop development, he said.
"The most notable part of this spring is its total absence," Lipinski said.
Scattered frost nicked the region's cherry crop, but spared most growers widespread damage, said Al Steimel, a Suttons Bay cherry grower and general manager of Leelanau Fruit Co.
So far, cherries that escaped frost look to be of decent quality and yields should be good, Steimel said, although the harvest could be delayed by at least a week or more and tart cherry-picking could extend well into August.
"It's going to be later, just because it's been so cool," he said.
Local winemakers aren't yet worried about grape growth, but problems could arise if warmer weather doesn't move in soon.
Grapes need warmth to develop adequate sugar content, but since grapes are harvested in the fall, crops have more time to develop.
"A good week in July can make up for a bad whole month in May," said Mark Johnson, winemaker at Chateau Chantal on the Old Mission Peninsula. "We can make up for a lot."
But even vintners can't wait much longer for summer-like temperatures.
"We really need as much good weather as we can get for the whole period," Johnson said. "We're a good two weeks behind where we normally would be."