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
UF/IFAS researcher looks after pigs on weed control duty
More VegetablesGot Weeds? Perhaps Pigs Can Help
July 27, 2015
Old-time crop protection method using hogs now being tested by UF/IFAS researchers. Read More
Washington Capitol building
CitrusHouse Passes Bill To Block State GMO Food Labeling Mandates
July 27, 2015
The legislation would offer a federal standard for voluntary labeling of foods containing GMOs.   Read More
Citrus2 Dozen Florida Nurseries Vying For Coveted Cannabis Growing Licenses
July 27, 2015
With only five spots available to produce the low-THC ‘Charlotte’s Web’ strain, tedious review process is in full swing. Read More
Insect & Disease UpdateSecond Case In A Month Of Citrus Greening In California
July 24, 2015
More trees testing positive for disease within close proximity of original find. Read More
CitrusUSDA Expands Crop Insurance Options For Fruit And Nut Growers
July 24, 2015
The USDA announced the expansion of crop insurance to provide additional options for fruit and nut producers. The Supplemental Coverage Read More
FFVA 2015 Annual Convention logo
CitrusFlorida Fruit & Vegetable Association Annual Convention Stacking Up To Be One For The Ages
July 23, 2015
Association's 72nd gathering to feature high-profile speakers, up-to-the-minute Issues Forums, and some fun to mix in with the business of the day. Read More
CitrusMarketing Order Amendments Referendum Set For Fresh Florida Citrus
July 22, 2015
Changes include the authorization and regulation of new varieties. Read More
Shannon Shepp
CitrusInterim Executive Director Named For Florida Department Of Citrus
July 22, 2015
Shannon Shepp will take on leadership duties immediately after unanimous Citrus Commission vote. Read More
downy mildew symptoms on basil
Disease ControlRed Lights Slow Down Growth Of Downy Mildew On Basil
July 22, 2015
University of Florida scientists say the technology may help growers manage the disease and reduce chemical inputs. Read More
Bacterial wilt of curcurbits
CucurbitsWin The War Against Bacterial Wilt Of Cucurbits
July 22, 2015
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods of this vegetable disease. Read More
The Latest
UF/IFAS researcher looks after pigs on weed control duty
More VegetablesGot Weeds? Perhaps Pigs Can Help
July 27, 2015
Old-time crop protection method using hogs now being tested by UF/IFAS researchers. Read More
Washington Capitol building
CitrusHouse Passes Bill To Block State GMO Food Labeling Mand…
July 27, 2015
The legislation would offer a federal standard for voluntary labeling of foods containing GMOs.   Read More
Citrus2 Dozen Florida Nurseries Vying For Coveted Cannabis Gr…
July 27, 2015
With only five spots available to produce the low-THC ‘Charlotte’s Web’ strain, tedious review process is in full swing. Read More
Insect & Disease UpdateSecond Case In A Month Of Citrus Greening In California
July 24, 2015
More trees testing positive for disease within close proximity of original find. Read More
CitrusUSDA Expands Crop Insurance Options For Fruit And Nut G…
July 24, 2015
The USDA announced the expansion of crop insurance to provide additional options for fruit and nut producers. The Supplemental Coverage Read More
FFVA 2015 Annual Convention logo
CitrusFlorida Fruit & Vegetable Association Annual Conven…
July 23, 2015
Association's 72nd gathering to feature high-profile speakers, up-to-the-minute Issues Forums, and some fun to mix in with the business of the day. Read More
CitrusMarketing Order Amendments Referendum Set For Fresh Flo…
July 22, 2015
Changes include the authorization and regulation of new varieties. Read More
Shannon Shepp
CitrusInterim Executive Director Named For Florida Department…
July 22, 2015
Shannon Shepp will take on leadership duties immediately after unanimous Citrus Commission vote. Read More
downy mildew symptoms on basil
Disease ControlRed Lights Slow Down Growth Of Downy Mildew On Basil
July 22, 2015
University of Florida scientists say the technology may help growers manage the disease and reduce chemical inputs. Read More
Bacterial wilt of curcurbits
CucurbitsWin The War Against Bacterial Wilt Of Cucurbits
July 22, 2015
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods of this vegetable disease. Read More
Crop ProtectionRegional Integrated Pest Management Grants Reduced Pest…
July 22, 2015
The program created tools and training information designed for Western growers. Read More
CucurbitsSakata Promotes Melon With Long Shelf Life
July 22, 2015
The variety Infinite Gold features good holding ability in the field. Read More
BerriesDrought Doesn’t Stop Export Of California Strawberries …
July 21, 2015
California’s No. 1 export to Canada, strawberries, consumes quite a bit of water during a time of extreme drought, according Read More
Apples & PearsHot Temps, Hot Topics Served Up During IFTA Summer Tour
July 21, 2015
  The first day of the International Fruit Tree Association (IFTA) summer tour in Washington State focused on the Pasco-area Read More
CitrusInternational Report Confirms 2014 As Earth’s Warmest Y…
July 21, 2015
Scientific compilation notes climate markers continue to show global warming trend. Read More
FruitsWashington Supreme Court Rules Workers Paid Piece-Rate …
July 21, 2015
  According to a news story in the Yakima News Herald, the state Supreme Court of Washington unanimously ruled that Read More
Disease ControlStone Fruit Rots Rampant In East
July 21, 2015
The incidents of fruit rots in both sweet and tart cherries and peaches and nectarines are quite high in Pennsylvania Read More
non-gmo label leafy greens
CitrusGMO Labeling Battle Moves To House Floor
July 21, 2015
The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 was passed by the Agriculture Committee last week and will head Read More