Frost in the orchards
Posted 18 April 2012 - 03:04 PM
GOSHEN — Wednesday night was definitely not a good night for fruit growers in Elkhart County.
With temperatures reaching down to 19 degrees in some areas, Tom Kercher, owner of Kercher’s Sunrise Orchards awoke early Thursday morning to a fruit grower’s nightmare — nearly 100 acres of fruit trees with white blossoms tinged by the telltale brown of a hard frost.
“We have a lot of damage,” Kercher said from the orchard’s main complex early Thursday afternoon. “It’s pretty widespread. We haven’t determined how bad yet. It’ll probably take a few days to really see how bad it is. But we know it’s bad.”
According to Kercher, the long run of unseasonably warm weather that has blanketed the area in recent weeks only served to exacerbate a situation by encouraging the fruit trees to bud and flower much earlier than is typical for a regular growing season.
“We’re six or seven weeks ahead of normal as far as growth,” Kercher said. “At the stage of development we’re at, which is petal fall, apples can take about 27 or 28 degrees without getting a real large percentage of bud kill. But (Wednesday) night we got down to anywhere from 19 to 22 degrees...so it’s pretty bad.”
Of the Kercher’s 100-acre orchard, apples make up a majority of the fruit produced, along with a smattering of peaches and various other fruits and vegetables.
“It’s mostly apples and peaches, and the peaches even got hurt,” Kercher said. “Normally we don’t worry much about the peaches, because generally they are a little hardier and can take a little more cold weather. But at this stage, they got hurt pretty bad too. So it’s tough all the way around.”
On a good year, Kercher said his operation can take in between 80,000 to 100,000 bushels of apples.
“This year, I don’t even want to speculate on what we’ll bring in,” Kercher said. “I don’t even want to think about it.”
While exactly how much of his crop was destroyed by the frost has yet to be determined, Kercher admitted that the apple market locally could take a pretty good hit if the die-off turns out to be as significant as he expects.
“It could be pretty tough for us locally here if we do come up with a really short crop,” Kercher said. “We can tell which flowers are dead or alive right now, but there are some of them that are just injured, and we don’t know right now which way it’s going to go with those. We may find that we have enough crop to get us through the fall, but we usually market through most of the winter too, and I don’t think that’s going to happen this year.”
Over at Fruit Hills Winery and Orchard, 55503 Ind. 15, Bristol, owners Michele and David Muir reported similarly dismal tidings for their vineyard and fruit trees. The orchard, which has been in the Muir family since 1852, is made up of approximately six acres of apple trees, two to three acres of peaches and cherries, and approximately an acre of grapes for use in the family’s winery.
“I just went out and looked around in the trees in the lower elevations, and it looked to me that they’re about all gone,” said David from his home Thursday afternoon. “The trees that are a little higher up on the side of the hill and on the far west side of our orchard are a little bit better. We lost some, but there’s still enough that we’ll have a crop.”
On a brighter note, David said his peaches seem to have fared fairly well despite the frost, though he added that it looks like the orchard’s apples and cherries took the brunt of the damage.
“As for the grapes, anything that had budded out has died off,” David said. “But there are still some that need to bud out, so my hope is that we’ll still have enough for a crop with those as well.”
Wednesday evening’s potential for a grape die-off was made particularly potent for the Muir family due to the fact that this year’s crop marks the first that the family will be able to harvest from their own vineyard.
“We started the winery a couple years ago, and this was supposed to be our first official harvest of our own grapes, because it takes a couple years for the vines to mature,” Michele said. “We’re definitely disappointed, because we were really looking forward to harvesting this first crop, and now we’re not even sure if we’ll have a crop to harvest. So we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Posted 18 April 2012 - 03:14 PM
Still waiting a bit to put things out that should be planted now?
Working at the Amish Farm yesterday we plants 'some' of the 100's of tomatoes but had to put them under 'row covers' as we still are having some cold nights, Down to 32 last night.
And they (weathermen) keep saying it is going to rain but nothing much yet - so I am back to hand watering what is in our Vegtable Garden here at the homestead.
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Posted 18 April 2012 - 03:16 PM
good luck all of you in these zones affected still by wintry stuff. But it is changing finally.
Posted 18 April 2012 - 06:50 PM
We lost a huge amount of our apple blossoms and all of the cherries (but it was the first year for them so wasn't expected anything from them). I didn't think about looking at my blackberries.
Posted 18 April 2012 - 07:15 PM
Posted 18 April 2012 - 07:44 PM
I saw on my local news that hundreds of grape vines got damaged so bad that Welch's grape juice lost most of their grapes. The last few years I have been thinking about doing a higher number of canned foods per item. This cemented my decision in place to go ahead and do it,, you can never be over prepared!
I don't know how or why our news didn't pick that up...... I'll be picking up juice to drink and make jam. Maybe some Tabor Hill, too.
Posted 18 April 2012 - 07:54 PM
Where words and actions disagree, the heart is revealed.
Look how often the unexpected happens... and we still don't expect it.
Posted 18 April 2012 - 08:10 PM
I hope the businesses and farms can recover. At least there is enough time for anyone who lost garden produce starting up to replant in the north on a majority of things that would have been damaged.
This stuff does happen at times and I guess this ended up being one of those times.
We may have to restart or make substitutions or find another way if it affects us directly.
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