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Death of Trees

By March 3, 2021March 4th, 2021Events, Farm News, Farmers Market Updates

It is with a heavy heart that we are sharing this news.

Do you remember as kids we used to hide and then jump out at someone just to scare the tar out of them? Sometimes they laughed and sometimes they weren’t so happy… 

Well, Mother Nature likes to do that to us. She jumps out at us and sometimes we come out laughing, wondering how we got through a cold night. Sometimes Mother Nature exerts the upper hand and we aren’t so happy. This is one of those times.

Last October we had the coldest night we have ever seen in October. The temperature bottomed out at three degrees.  Before that, our October temperatures had been unseasonably warm. Our trees had no chance to get used to the cold or to harden off. The sudden freeze took them by surprise. Mother Nature’s jump scare got them. The immediate effect was seeing dead leaves hanging on the branches, denying the trees their normal chance to move nutrients from the leaves to the tree. But the full impact wasn’t obvious at first. Deep damage takes time to show, so we waited, hoping for the best, scared to know what might be the worst.

Steve & Will Ela heading out into the orchards to look at freeze damage.

Gathering up our determination, we finally walked around last week and looked at the fruit buds and the trees. It was a devastating walk.

From what we can tell, our three acres of mature cherry trees are completely dead. Our four acres of one year old peach trees are dead or severely injured. Same for two year old peach trees. Our three year old peach trees, that are just starting to fruit, are hurt but maybe alive. Older peach trees are alive, but most branches smaller than your thumb are dead. We are likely to lose many mature plum trees. Pear trees are alive with some possible viable fruit buds, but many buds are dead. Apple trees are alive and some seem to have viable buds.

assessing freeze damage

Clipping the smallest branches first, working ever lower on the tree hoping to find live wood.

We are concerned. All the surviving trees have been stressed and will be extra vulnerable to diseases. Spring freezes and any drought this summer will stress them further. For stone fruits our normal pruning will be completely different and very sad this year.

Our crop for this coming summer is drastically reduced.  How many peaches will we pick from the older damaged trees?  Pears were badly hurt but maybe some will fruit? Can we keep our fingers crossed for apples? And, we still have to navigate our “normal” frost season meaning more of any currently surviving buds may die.

Shirley Ela, 96, walks 1/4 mile through the orchard to get to the farm office most days. She said that there was a similar fall freeze with similar fruit damage in 1962. This is what perseverance looks like.

 


You are our community, understanding that extreme crop years like this are part of the bumpy farming road. 
You all know the many benefits of eating locally grown food, and you’re likely among the folks who dedicate a portion of your food dollars to this. 

So, that’s the hard news.

We are asking you to extend the dynamic flexibility you’ve always shown, and do three things:

1) Consider participating in the farm in new ways – looking for the bright side of having more time when there’s little fruit to harvest we are offering a bunch of virtual learning and on-farm experiences this year including:
Lunch with a Farmer Live Question & Answer
Custom Individualized Tours/Experiences
Adopt a Tree (or Three!)

2) Join us when you can at farmers markets this year. We will still be bringing whatever fruit makes it to bloom and then through spring frosts.

3) Hold your breath with us, ready to jump into CSAs again next year. Because of our deep uncertainty about the crop, we are not confident that we can fulfill CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and so are not going to be offering fruit shares this year.

We want to honor your part in our farm.
We hope you will understand. Sometimes we laugh, and sometimes we cry. We hope you will stay with us for a better year. 

Watch videos of looking for live wood in the cherries: view Medium sized branch – a hint of green ; view Cutting a large branch, brown

See photos of what the wood looks like. A live cambium layer is green, but this one is brown. This is what a dead limb looks like. This cambium layer has both green and brown, so time will tell if this limb survives.

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