I’ve been on the road quite a bit this past month for future stories. It’s the nature of the beast — I’ve got to come to your farms when the fruit is on the trees. One thing I’m hearing a lot about is how the weather is impacting your season.
Although you do your best to mitigate risk, risk is just part of the bargain when you go into business with Mother Nature.
Not too long ago I was in Northern Michigan, where growers were hit with damaging hail two years in a row – this time coming a month earlier than last year and impacting both cherry crops – sweet and tart – as well as hitting some growers’ apple crops.
At one orchard I visited, the apples looked like golf balls, with all the dimples. Although the grower did his best to stay upbeat, you could see the disappointment on his face.
Many of you are dealing with high heat – some of you in places not known for droughts. On the other extreme, many peach growers in the Northeast are seeking other sources for peaches in their farm markets, because their crops were wiped out by sub-zero freezes in February.
An Extension agent recently told me about the experiences of a young grower the past three years in Northern Michigan. The first two years, freezes hit his apple crops. – It was his first two years in production, so there wasn’t any historical income to draw crop insurance. And this year, of course, his orchard was hit by the hail storm that rolled through.
At another farm I visited, the grower sustained serious injury to his berry plants from the 17-year cicadas that emerged in parts of the country this year. Yields were definitely diminished, and the pests also pruned next year’s growth as well. So, this grower suspects his 2017 yields will be down slightly, too.
So, what are you to to do when, despite your best efforts, you’re handed the wrong end of the deal by Mother Nature?Crop insurance offers some padding. For some growers, the answer is diversification and being vertically integrated – that way when disaster strikes one commodity, you’re not completely sunk. Perhaps now is a time to consider hail netting or even a hail cannon, if the return on investment is there. It also might be time to install shade cloth, especially as water woes out West continue.
I’m always impressed with how well you face the challenges of farming, when the cards are stacked against you. I guess blueberry grower Bob McConnell of Morgantown, VA, says it best.
“The weather you can’t control, so there’s no sense in worrying about it.”