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Drought means smaller fruit

BRIDGMAN, Mich. - It’s been a disastrous growing season for growers. If it wasn’t the freeze this spring, it’s been the lack of water this summer.

In Southwest Michigan’s fruit belt some of the only fruits to survive the spring are blueberries but without rain they’re not quite the same.

“We rely on mother nature which evidently this year was a mistake,” said Verne Rambo, owner of Rambo’s Blueberries in Bridgman.

Harvest began Thursday at Rambo’s and the blueberry harvest is important this year. The farm lost 400 acres of juice grapes and a good portion of blueberries. “We probably are going to end up with 50 percent of a crop.”

April’s frost was devastating but June’s drought has taken a toll as well. With no irrigation system on the farm and almost no rain for a month, the berries now being boxed up and sold are a whole lot smaller.

“Lack of moisture is a problem,” said Rambo.

Rambo’s at least has something to sell unlike many other farmers in the fruit belt. The region’s apples, grapes, cherries and peaches have all but been wiped out by odd weather.

The only thing that can hurt the blueberry harvest more than no rain at all, now, is too much of it. “If we have an overabundance of rain the berries will take in the water and then they’ll split open,” said Rambo.

After this growing season not much is going to surprise him. “It’s going to be a long summer fall and winter for growers.”

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