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April 21, 2021

Frost worries peach grower

By Ronnie Gallagher and Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
Kevin Huffman looked at the thermometer at 7 a.m. Tuesday and saw 26 degrees.
His first thought was, “I hope we get through this.”
Huffman was thinking of his six acres and 1,000 peach trees on Goodman Lake Road. Hopefully, the cold weather would not bring a repeat of the last two years when he suffered through a killer frost.”Usually, we can stand it down to 28 degrees,” Huffman said. “When it gets down to 28 for around three-to-four hours, we’re on the borderline.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape.”A positive sign, Huffman said, was that the shucks haven’t split yet. The shucks were still around the peaches, which helps insulate them.
A sudden frost has hurt his peach crop for two consecutive years.
Last spring was probably the worst for Huffman and his wife, Ellen, since they set their first trees out in 1995.
“Last year, we lost everything,” Huffman recalled. “We didn’t have a peach anywhere. It got down to 20 degrees. I had never seen anything like that.”
In 2006, it was much of the same.”We picked 400 bushels and should’ve picked 4,000 bushels,” Huffman said.
He has insurance, but it only covers half of the crop.
So the next 20 days will be crucial.
“I think once we get past the 18th of April, we’re in the clear,” Huffman said.
Huffman grew up on a farm and wanted a peach orchard.
“I was always intrigued with peach orchards down east when we were going to the beach,” he said.
So he got into the peach business and sells the fruit from his home. But he has become just as much of a weatherman.
“I look at the 10- to 15-day forecast,” he said with a smile, adding he expects nights where frost comes in.
“This is nothing unusual,” he said. “It’s something we have to deal with every year.”
At Patterson Farms on Millbridge Road outside China Grove, Doug Patterson said the temperature dropped to 22 degrees early Tuesday.
But he and fellow workers began irrigating their 30 acres of strawberries about 11 p.m. Monday and kept throwing water to the plants until almost 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Patterson said the water freezes around the plants and protects the buds at 32 degrees or higher.
The practice worked to perfection Tuesday, Patterson said, keeping the farm from losing any plants.
“I think we’re fine,” Patterson said late Tuesday afternoon. “I don’t see any problems.”He said farm workers have been raising tomatoes in a greenhouse and the plants will be transplanted outdoors between April 15 and 20.
“As soon as the weather breaks, we’ll start planting,” Patterson said.

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