So, Spring has “officially” arrived. Although, here in the western Carolina mountains we had an early burst of Spring at the end of February (over a beautiful solid week of it!). It was glorious -- 70 degree days, bright sunny afternoons, and happy yellow daffodils “bobbing their heads in sprightly dance”. I relished it. We’re tired of the grey, tired of the cold, tired of the tracks of dirt and the mud-covered doors our dogs have so enthusiastically gifted us. But alas…it was not to last.
While most of western Carolina blissfully celebrated the unexpected early Spring, the farmers knew better. Not a gift, but a trick of nature. Winter was not done with us. While I mourn my frost-bitten daffodils and lilacs, the effect on many of our local orchards and berry farms is much more significant.
Locally, the early burst of Spring enlivened fruit orchards and berry farms. Strawberry farms were surprised with a mass of early growth and blossoms, a boon that could mean an early crop results in an incredible amount of hard work to preserve when cold weather inevitably snaps back.
Farms may attempt to save their crop by setting up pumps, running irrigation lines and sprinklers to spray their fields overnight. This method builds a layer of ice over the berry plants which amazingly insulates the tender new growth, protecting it from the damaging bite of frost. It’s not an easy or full proof method though, much can go wrong with equipment and logistics. Each crop is a gamble, one that could mean the legacy and success of a farm for future generations to come.
Close to home in Haywood County, K&T Orchard’s peach crop was at the complete mercy of the elements, and it did not fare well. The peach trees budded, and tender new growth began to stretch out tiny leaves, only to be frozen solid the next week by bitter cold temperatures. Unfortunately for peaches, they’re not as resilient and this means no sweet juicy peaches come July and August for much of our mountain region. For Kathy and Howard Taylor, it’s a disappointing setback, now hopes rest on a bountiful harvest from their apples, raspberries and blackberries to offset the loss.
At Copper Pot & Wooden Spoon we will feel the ripples months from now at the height of our production season, when we will hope the peaches down the mountain in upstate South Carolina have fared better. Even now it’s easy to anticipate that the cost of peaches and strawberries will likely rise this summer. Now those warm days we enjoyed are starting to feel like a deal with the devil…my brother might say that’s what I get for my poetic adoration of daffodils.
Ah well....no peaches? no strawberries? guess we always have apple butter, (it's my kids' favorite anyway).
On the bright side(?)...the forecast tomorrow is 80 degrees -- Happy Spring Everyone! Now get out of the house, enjoy some sunshine, and go hug a farmer—they might need it, and they certainly deserve it.