Opinion: Weathering The Storms Of 2012

Brian Sparks

If there’s one thing I came to realize while putting this issue together, it’s that fruit growers are quite a resilient bunch by nature. Think of it this way: if you were to tell someone in almost any other profession that they were likely going to have no income for an entire year, just imagine what their reaction would be. And yet, growers in several locations across the country are facing this exact prospect in 2012. Chaotic weather patterns, from the spring freezes in the East and Midwest, to hail storms in California in March, have led to much uncertainty over where this year’s crop will end up.

Despite this outlook, many growers we’ve talked to the past couple months are not only carrying on, they are looking ahead to 2013 and what they need to do to make it a year of recovery. In some cases, they are also factoring in the needs of the entire fruit industry as it moves forward.

Forging Ahead

One example of this is the team behind DBR Conveyor Concepts of Conklin, MI, which is developing a vacuum-assist harvesting system for apples. (Read more about their latest efforts by clicking here.) This was supposed to be the year that, after a winter of making adjustments and modifications to the system, in-the-field evaluations would be taking place in Michigan and elsewhere. This should still be the case in Washington and Pennsylvania, but when we talked to Phil Brown and Mike Rasch, two of the three partners behind DBR (the other being Chuck Dietrich), they were concerned that this year’s likely reduced apple crop in Michigan could make it difficult to get a full sense of the machine’s capabilities.

This won’t stop the evaluation, however. Rasch says they will be diligent in seeking out areas where there is enough of a crop to provide an accurate sense of the system’s efficiency. In addition, they will be counting on the data coming out of Washington, in particular, where the machine will be trialed in a wide range of orchard systems, varieties, and terrains.

Some of the researchers responsible for evaluating the DBR unit have noted that it has the potential to revolutionize the apple industry. In other words, they couldn’t let one year of bad weather stop them.

Be Prepared

Another example of how fruit growers continue to forge ahead, even in challenging times, is in this month’s cover story. Sidney Kuhn, general manager of Kuhn Orchards in Cashtown, PA, has taken a number of steps to make sure her family’s farm is able to build a profitable future. Thanks to feedback from customers at their farmers market stands in Northern Virginia, they’ve diversified their crop offerings quite a bit in the last few years. Not only has this led to new sources of income, but in a year like 2012, it could also mean being able to offer their customers new options at a time when some of their preferred crops may face a down year.

On the farm, Kuhn has also invested in a new high tunnel, not just to extend their season, but to protect their berry plants from the elements. With weather a question mark year after year, more and more growers are taking the same approach as Kuhn and looking into high tunnels or other protective structures.

Looking Ahead

So what happens if you are a grower in an area that has experienced heavy crop loss thanks to this year’s weather patterns. First and foremost, our thoughts are with you as you battle through this difficult challenge. But as you already know, having little or no crop doesn’t mean you are done working for the year.

If you’ve read other articles on the effects of 2012’s weather on this site, you know that tree fruit researchers offer several suggestions on how to maintain at least some crop, and how to manage your trees to ensure a good crop the following year. In some cases, there are also suggestions on how you can actually save money this year by potentially cutting back on extra chemical applications.

Finally, for those of you not affected by this year’s weather, our “Tree Fruit” columnist, Jim McFerson, offers this reminder: “Next year, Michigan could be back to full production, while growers in Washington, or wherever, could face their own disaster.” In other words, anyone can experience a down year. The key is to remain resilient.

But you already know that, right?

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
The family at the helm of Sterman Masser Potato Farms includes (from left) David, Keith, Helen, and Julie.
Photo credit: Rosemary Gordon
Potatoes
February 7, 2016
A Lesson In Marketing From Sterman Masser Potato Farms
Always looking for new product offerings and ways to expand, Sterman Masser Potato Farms caters to consumers. Read More
Thomas Björkman, the director of the Eastern Broccoli Project, discusses details on the challenges of broccoli production in the East.
Vegetables
February 7, 2016
The Eastern Broccoli Project Moves Forward
As acreage increases in the East, mid-sized growers seek channels to distribute their product and continue the search for varieties. Read More
Apples On Display
Fruits
February 6, 2016
Best Research Is Industry Driven [Opinion]
Like many of you, I’m not crazy about a lot of government programs. It’s not that their genesis isn’t noble; God Read More
RosBREED will have an impact on nearly all the major U.S. rosaceous crop production areas.
Fruits
February 6, 2016
RosBREED: A National Effort To Improve The Fruit Industry
The project focuses on improving disease resistance and fruit quality through better genetics and breeding. Read More
Biofungicides supplement methyl bromide alternatives
Berries
February 5, 2016
Moving Beyond Methyl Bromide With Biofungicides
Editor’s note: University of California Farm Advisor Mark Bolda will present much more information on this topic at the Biocontrols Read More
Geotextiles being installed.

Photo: Jim Willwerth
Grapes
February 5, 2016
Geotextiles Can Help Prevent Winter Grapevine Damage
Although Northeast and Midwest grape growing regions have so far been spared from extreme cold this year, the winters of Read More
The canopy of the vines that received the under-canopy sprinkler irrigation just on hot nights during heatwaves appear to be healthier than the control vines and have a higher yield.
Photo: Michael McCarthy
Grapes
February 5, 2016
Researchers Test New Method To Mitigate Vine Heat Stress
The use of evaporative cooling in vineyards during hot weather isn’t a new concept, but researchers in Australia are testing Read More
Biocontrols USA 2016 logo
Crop Protection
February 5, 2016
Register Now For Biocontrols Conference 2016 Field And Greenhouse Tour
Space is limited, so register now to attend the first-ever Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference Field and Greenhouse Tour. Following the Read More
La Crescent produces a good quality white wine with apricot-like flavor. The off-dry, sweet white wine pairs well with appetizers, seafood and chicken. La Crescent has excellent winter hardiness with moderate disease resistance that requires a standard spray program.
Grapes
February 4, 2016
Northern Grapes Project Fuels A Market For Cold-Hardy Grapes
 There’s a burgeoning market for cold-weather grapes. The Northern Grapes Project, funded in 2011 by a USDA National Institute of Read More
two glass goblets of olive oil
Citrus
February 4, 2016
Can Olive Oil Grease Skids For Florida’s Slipping Citrus Trade?
Researchers, interested growers help launch new industry. Read More
The Latest
Potatoes
February 7, 2016
A Lesson In Marketing From Sterman Masse…
Always looking for new product offerings and ways to expand, Sterman Masser Potato Farms caters to consumers. Read More
Vegetables
February 7, 2016
The Eastern Broccoli Project Moves Forwa…
As acreage increases in the East, mid-sized growers seek channels to distribute their product and continue the search for varieties. Read More
Fruits
February 6, 2016
Best Research Is Industry Driven [Opinio…
Like many of you, I’m not crazy about a lot of government programs. It’s not that their genesis isn’t noble; God Read More
Fruits
February 6, 2016
RosBREED: A National Effort To Improve T…
The project focuses on improving disease resistance and fruit quality through better genetics and breeding. Read More
Berries
February 5, 2016
Moving Beyond Methyl Bromide With Biofun…
Editor’s note: University of California Farm Advisor Mark Bolda will present much more information on this topic at the Biocontrols Read More
Grapes
February 5, 2016
Geotextiles Can Help Prevent Winter Grap…
Although Northeast and Midwest grape growing regions have so far been spared from extreme cold this year, the winters of Read More
Grapes
February 5, 2016
Researchers Test New Method To Mitigate …
The use of evaporative cooling in vineyards during hot weather isn’t a new concept, but researchers in Australia are testing Read More
Crop Protection
February 5, 2016
Register Now For Biocontrols Conference …
Space is limited, so register now to attend the first-ever Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference Field and Greenhouse Tour. Following the Read More
Grapes
February 4, 2016
Northern Grapes Project Fuels A Market F…
 There’s a burgeoning market for cold-weather grapes. The Northern Grapes Project, funded in 2011 by a USDA National Institute of Read More
Citrus
February 4, 2016
Can Olive Oil Grease Skids For Florida’s…
Researchers, interested growers help launch new industry. Read More
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Sunkist Expands Organic Portfolio
With the organic citrus sector growing three times as fast as conventional, the 123-year-old cooperative is keeping up with the times. Read More
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Syngenta OKs Buyout By ChemChina
Deal valued at more than $43 billion; Syngenta management team to stay intact. Read More
Farm Marketing
February 3, 2016
Florida Peach Marketing Order Fails
Growers don’t meet 65% approval needed for passage. Read More
Farm Management
February 3, 2016
Western Growers Launches Tech Talk Serie…
Speakers from a variety of agricultural technology areas will make presentations on a variety of topics including drone/satellite imagery and food safety software. Read More
Farm Management
February 3, 2016
Hot Topics Tackled At Mid-Atlantic Fruit…
Food safety and GMOs were two of the topics discussed on the first day of the trade show and conference. Read More
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Historic Rainfall Hampering South Florid…
El Niño express delivering floods, uncertainty for crops. Read More
Nuts
February 3, 2016
Avoid Tree Nut Cargo Theft
American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® recently reported on a rash of nut thefts, in which truckloads of nuts Read More
Nuts
February 3, 2016
Tips To Help Secure A Good Beekeeper Agr…
Pollination is one of the most important aspects of almond growing, and this time of year, making sure you have Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]