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

All Vegetables Stories >All Fruits Stories >All Nuts Stories >All Citrus Stories >

The Latest

Apples & PearsInvasive Pest Found First Time In U.S. At Border Crossi…
October 20, 2014
Moth known to feed on apples, apple buds, leaves, and shoots, is found in a container full of pump valves originating in China. Read More
More Vegetables6 Savory Tomato And Pepper Varieties For Florida Grower…
October 20, 2014
Leading vegetable seed companies highlight a half dozen high-performance selections for producers in the Sunshine State. Read More
CitrusGrowers Need To Take The Ball And Run — Now! [Opi…
October 18, 2014
Help yourself, your farm, and fellow colleagues by becoming more involved in your industry. Read More
CitrusLegendary Florida Citrus Grower And Advocate Passes
October 17, 2014
Joe L. Davis Sr. will be remembered for his straight talk and sage advice. Read More
GrapesNew American Viticultural Area In Northern California E…
October 17, 2014
“Eagle Peak Mendocino County” lies entirely within the North Coast viticultural area. Read More
GrapesMapping Grape Crown Gall Tumor Disease
October 17, 2014
Scientists are close to cracking the disease’s genetic code, a major boon to vineyard protection. Read More
NutsAlmond Growers To Promote Bee Health
October 16, 2014
Almond Board of California announces comprehensive Best Management Practices. Read More
Cucurbits6 Juicy Watermelon Selections For The Sunshine State
October 16, 2014
Leading vegetable seed companies highlight a half dozen high-performance varieties for Florida producers. Read More
CitrusDiversification Is King For Small Farm’s Success
October 16, 2014
Being flexible and adapting to the times critical for Central Florida's Vo-LaSalle Farms. Read More
CitrusAsian Citrus Psyllid Moves Into Northern California
October 15, 2014
First detections made of damaging insect in Santa Clara and San Joaquin counties. Read More
Farm ManagementVidalia Onion Committee Reaches Younger Audience with D…
October 15, 2014
“V is for Vidalia” campaign focused on social and digital media outreach. Read More
VegetablesSakata Seed America To Debut “Tasty 10 By Sakata Coll…
October 15, 2014
The collection includes a new variety and will be launched at the PMA Fresh Summit Oct 17-19. Read More
Insect ControlBagrada Bug Continues To Spread In California’s Brass…
October 15, 2014
The pest is expected to be a problem through December. Read More
Vegetables8 Blazing Hot Pepper Varieties [Slideshow]
October 15, 2014
Check out these 8 hot pepper varieties from the nation’s leading seed breeders and distributors. Read More
NutsKeep In Mind Availability Of Soil Fumigants
October 15, 2014
Almond growers must be aware of restrictions pertaining to soil fumigants prior to replanting. Read More
Food SafetyCalifornia Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Revises Web…
October 15, 2014
The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement's revised website provides food safety news and resources. Read More
CitrusScientists Uproot Common “Superweed” Myths
October 15, 2014
A new fact sheet is available that explores the truth behind two fallacies.   Read More
CitrusUF/IFAS Joins In On Specialty Crop Block Grant Bonanza
October 15, 2014
Researchers partnering with FDACS and USDA on 24 separate projects to strengthen the produce market sector. Read More