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Berrien County orchards losing crops to the polar vortex


Now that the temperatures are starting to warm and the sun is out, farmers in southwest Michigan are headed out to the orchards and vineyards to see how their crops fared through a harsh winter.

Mike Hildebrand of Hildebrand fruit farms has some bad news. “Didn’t really want to say anything too soon, just kept our fingers crossed and hoped for the best, but now that things are starting to move it’s quite obvious what the reality is: the peach crop for Hildebrand Farms is gone.”

The farm has 30 acres of peach trees, and they need only 20% of the buds to make it through winter for a full crop. Mike says that some peaches can take temperatures between 10-15 below for a short period of time, but we dealt with much worse than that in January.

“We had a low of 19.6 below zero here during the polar vortex, and it was at that temperature for quite a long time so we weren’t very optimistic. Things happen,” says Hildebrand.

Other orchards in Berrien County are likely suffering from the same problem.

Unlike the peach crop, which was a total loss, only some of the grape crops were ruined due to cold temperatures. Hildebrand Farms supplies juice grapes for Welch’s. After inspecting the vines, they are hopeful for their buds.

“The white grapes have some injury however we think there will be some crops still. The purple grapes look okay.”

However, there is not as much hope for other farmers who grow wine grapes in Berrien County.

Hildebrand is explains that “the wine grapes are much more tender than juice grapes and the wine grape growers are singing the blues”.

This affects many of the wineries in Berrien County, and the price of 2019 wines sold in 2020 will likely be inflated.


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