Impactful interactions, special stories, and tractor talk from Farmer Ben
This winter was again a set-back for those farmers growing stone fruit (cherries, apricots, plums, peaches, nectarines). The deep cold of early January froze out some of the buds. Our cherry crop came through at around 75% of a crop. We will be lucky to harvest 50% of the total yield potential from our peaches.
And then came spring… no late frosts, which is good… except we were fairly dry for about 3 weeks. Not much rain to speak of for most of May. Some of our new tree plantings suffered as a result. But… wait for it… rain… in amounts unseen in 40 years according to my Dad. The month of June was arguably the wettest on our farm since my Dad began farming…. Over 16 inches of total rainfall. Orchards by and large are resilient to those amounts of rain. We would much rather have rain than not. Our tree root system established enough to endure and our sandy soils help drain water downstream and away from our orchards which have been strategically located on higher ground. There are two negative effects to all this rain:
Our cherry crop, already compromised from the winter, was again negatively affected in that a tree takes up too much water and distributes it to the fruit such that the flesh of a cherry grows faster than the skin and the skin cracks and splits horribly. The crop will end up picking out at around 40%… finishing this weekend.
The peaches, especially early varieties, also have a tendency to split with the uptake of excess moisture. There is also a potential for a less than ideal flavor since the sugars are not as concentrated in a tree that has been drinking a lot of water. But we are blessed with peaches and that in itself is cause for celebration.
The apple tree is perhaps the most resilient critter we have on the farm. Those trees will take a drink whenever they can and just give us larger fruit. In fact, the crop is shaping up to be potentially larger than last year’s harvest. It appears that the entire country will be maximizing yields this year as well. I will get a better handle on other parts of the country when I go to Chicago in August for an annual apple production summit hosted by U.S.Apple.
As far as other crops are concerned… I know the sweetcorn harvest has been pushed at least a week and some fields are compromised because of standing water; the June rains completely wiped out some strawberry harvests. The row-crop guys… that’s corn and beans… will hopefully have enough time through the rest of the summer to get some hot, dry weather to promote strong cropping.
And this rain and cool temperatures are also feeding my lovely wife’s skepticism about any normalcy to weather in this part of the country. Being from Phoenix… she is a bit concerned that her flip-flops and tank tops are not getting enough use. Instead it’s her raincoat and sweaters. She hears my Dad and I talk about “ The coldest winter since… blah, blah, blah” and “We haven’t had this much rain in… blah, blah, blah”. The newest addition to our family, our new pup HUDSON fills our home with love, joy, and little more chaos to keep our lives full.
Milestones this summer will include the weekend of July 18th as the first official weekend we will have homegrown peaches in over two years (no small accomplishment). Freestone peach varieties, including Red Haven, will be starting around the 2nd weekend in August. The first good apples, Gala, will come off the trees by the last weekend in August.