What’s Up with the Weather?
Wind, rain, hail, heat… what next? This has been a crazy year for weather-related threats to our crops. Farmers are always at the mercy of Mother Nature, but 2012 has proven to be exceptional. Not that there is ever a “normal” year in farming. Someone asked me to describe a typical day on the farm. Other than getting up early and working hard all day, I could not provide an answer.
How Are the Crops Affected?
The recent wind storm blew some fruit off the trees. Some of that fruit was ready to be picked. If it’s wet, trees can blow over. How rain affects the fruit depends upon when and how much. Rain on the blossoms can cause brown rot in the fruit later on. Rain on the ripe fruit can cause etching, that is, the fruit is streaked with brown or grey lines. This does not affect flavor, but looks ugly, so it is harder to sell. Frost can damage the developing fruit causing it is grow unevenly producing lopsided fruit (see photo). Again, the flavor is not affected. Hail is covered in my other blog post titled, Hail No! Extremely hot weather can sunburn the fruit. This does affect the quality by making the skin tough.
Other Weather-related Issues
Our shade canopy, which we provide for our employees for hot days, collapsed in the wind storm. Thankfully we have a back-up, but we need to start looking for another one on sale. This wind storm took us by surprise, so some of our loose boxes got blow into the orchard. The rain accompanying this storm also was not expected. The combination of wind and water caused damage to some of our packing materials as well. Cooler than normal weather in the summer months may reduce the demand for certain produce such as watermelons and other fresh fruits. Produce has a short shelf life, so slow sales means low profits.
An Ounce of Prevention Sometimes Doesn’t Apply
The old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” doesn’t apply to the weather since we have little, if any, control over Mother Nature. Crop insurance is available, in fact, is required, if you decide to make a claim. The price varies depending on how much coverage you want to pay for. We usually get the minimum plan which means that we would have to have 100% loss to collect. That is very unlikely to happen since we have a diverse crop that extends from May to August. One weather event will not wipe out our entire season’s crop. The only crop that we ever considered filing a claim for was our raisin grapes when they got rained on one year after they were picked and on the trays. We don’t have grapes anymore, though. If you’re wondering why the price of peaches is so high this summer, the weather is likely the culprit.