Farmers Fight for Fruit Crop

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By: Jessica Brown, Bath-DeWitt Connection staff writer

DEWITT, MI – Local farmers have felt an extra strain on their pocketbooks as a result of harsh weather conditions that have negatively affected this year’s crops.

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Earlier this year Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency in all of Michigan’s 83 counties. “This is the worst natural disaster to strike Michigan’s agricultural industry in more than 50 years,” Snyder said.

According to a press release from the Governor’s office, the state experienced fruit crop losses estimating $210 million.

“Typically the Michigan apple industry has a $700-$900 million annual economic impact on the state,” said Gretchen Mensing, communications and marketing manager at the Michigan Apple Committee. “You can imagine the impact of the crop loss this year.”

According to a press release from the Governor’s office, the state experienced fruit crop losses estimating $210 million.

Growers at the downtown DeWitt Farmers Market that meets Tuesdays during the summer months from 5-8 p.m have felt the strain from the rough weather.

Brian Phillips of Phillips Orchards and Cider Mill has been selling at the DeWitt Farmer’s Market for years and was forced to almost double the price of his apple crop to try to make up for the fruit lost as a result of poor growing.

“It wasn’t the streak of 100 degree days and lack of water in July that hurt the crop,” Phillips said. “It was the weather we experienced in the spring…odd warm spells followed by frosts that hurt the apple buds.”

 

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It hasn’t only been DeWitt growers who have struggled this season.  Farmers across the state have experienced an estimated 90 percent loss of apple and cherry crop, a 95 percent loss of the peach crop, an 85 percent loss of juice grapes and a 15 percent loss of blueberries.

In an effort to help farmers survive the economic crisis Gov. Snyder signed a bill into law allowing for a one-time $15-million appropriation to growers in Michigan to help them prepare crops for the 2014 year.

“Agriculture is a key component of our economy, and these loans will help keep our fruit farmers afloat until next season,” Snyder said in a press release.

Farmers have eight months from the time the disaster was declared to file for a loan this season.  Some growers are reluctant to accept the aid.

“I don’t want to take the loan if I don’t have to,” Phillips said. “I want to wait until at least October before I make that decision.”

The growers and farmers who were most effected are those who specialize in fruit production. Vegetable crops were produced at an average rate this year; the dry spell in July had some effect but nothing compared to the downfall in fruit growth.

Wes Clark of Clark Sugar Bush has been selling at farmer’s markets across the state since 1991. He produces maple syrup but also grows a large amount of perennials and vegetables, especially peppers. Clark says it’s all about being prepared.

“I put shade cloths on both of my green houses this year, they really help the heat and we really needed to stay on top of the watering too,” said Clark. “Some of our peppers even ended up being a little bigger this year.”

One thing is clear, even in times of hardship sellers love for farmers markets is clear.

“I’ve been coming to farmer’s markets by myself since I was in high school, I guess that makes me a glutton for punishment,” Phillips said. “Every year is a new year. Last year good this year not so good.”

 

Contact: Jessica Brown (714)738-7361 jmbrown263@gmail.com

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