Illegal alien peach pickers hit the hardest.
For brothers Frank and Bruce Carlson, owners of Carlson Orchards in Harvard, the damage their peach crop sustained after February’s cold snap is unlike anything they’ve seen in decades.
“It’s the first time in 35 years for us. As a matter of fact, we’ve had very little loss in 35 years,” Frank Carlson explained.
Though a majority of the brothers’ 100-acre farm remains healthy, the 25 acres where peaches are grown won’t bear fruit this year, after the combination of a warm winter and sudden freeze killed off many of their trees’ buds. Frank Carlson estimated the peach crop accounts for 40 percent of the farm’s total sales.
The total loss of the farm’s peaches is not isolated to Harvard, however.
Peter Morton, manager of Autumn Hill Orchards in Groton, is reporting a similar loss.
“We haven’t seen any blossoms yet, but I think a lot of our peach blossoms are dead… It doesn’t look like we’ll have much of a crop this year,” he said.
Because there are 7,000 farms that grow peaches in Massachusetts alone, the extent of the loss is hard to track, but for Jon Clements, a tree fruit specialist working for UMass Amherst’s Extension Fruit Program, the damage could affect the entire state, as well as Connecticut and Rhode Island.
“I don’t think you’ll find a single peach in any of those states,” he said.
As Clements explains it, the widespread crop loss was made possible after the warm winter left peach trees vulnerable to a sudden drop in temperature that occurred on Valentine’s Day.
“When temperatures start to go below minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit, we typically expect the peach buds to start dying off. They just aren’t hardy enough for it, which is why we don’t see them growing in the wild,” said Clements.
“I haven’t spoken to everyone, but from the growers I have spoken with, it’s been the same,” said Julia Grimaldi, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Agricultural Resources.[…]
In the 40 years Sunny Crest Orchard in Sterling has been growing peaches, owner Bill Broderick said he could only think of three other times there had been widespread loss, and never to the degree he’s seen this year.
“It’s pretty unusual, but it does happen,” Broderick said, adding that it’s because of unpredictable acts of nature like this that he, and many other farmers, diversify crops.
Though one third of his farm was taken up by peaches and other stone fruit, including plums, nectarines and pluots, the remaining two thirds of the farm is taken up by apples, which were less damaged by the weather.
HT: Tom Nelson