Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Southern Colorado orchards hit by April's hard frost

by Jesse Byrnes jesse.byrnes@gazette.com - Published: May 31, 2013

An April frost damaged many blooms and buds in Southern Colorado and has chilled some growers who are expecting lower production levels of crops such as apples and peaches.

Justin Jenkins, owner of Apple Valley Orchard in Penrose, said that McIntosh, Cortland, Gala and Jonathan apples have not been impacted, while others including Red Delicious and Golden Delicious have been hardest hit.

The extremes of early spring frost and summertime drought have combined to impact apple production, Jenkins said. However, while many apples will not bud during a light bloom, those that do bud produce larger apples, he explained.

The hard part for some, Jenkins continued, is when bigger orchards produce less than they expected and the public doesn't visit. "Everybody just assumes that Penrose just doesn't have apples," he said.

Jenkins estimates that his orchard will have about 60 percent of its normal crop. A light bloom is not a "horrible" situation, Jenkins said, and there will be plenty of apples for those that visit at harvest time.

While some point to the cold, others believe it was largely the lack of water in the area.

"I truly feel that it's been a lack of water," said Tony Ferrara, owner of Happy Apple Farm in Penrose.

Ferrara mentioned other farmers in the area that also believe that the reduced crop yields this year are a result of a lack of water.

Happy Apple Farm will take a partial hit on apples, Ferrara said, but has plenty of blackberries and raspberries, which blossom in May and June. The farm lost about 60 percent of its apple crop but will supplement the loss with imported apples from Delta County he said

"Everything is way behind schedule this year," Ferrara said, noting that most growers are about two weeks behind. Of his around 13 varieties of apples, Ferrara's Red Delicious are the lightest this year, while Galas and Jonathans survived.

Pumpkins and other crops were not affected by the frost.

"Pumpkins grow in the heat of the summer, so we're good," said Sue Madone with Diana's Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze in Canon City. "None of our stuff got impacted."

Other Colorado growers have been less fortunate.

"It's the worst I've seen it," James Sanders of the Palisade Peach Shack told The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction. This year, Sanders believes he lost about 90 percent of his 40-acre peach crop near Interstate 70.

While farmers cannot yet compare the state's peach crop to previous years, there will likely be enough to fulfill in-state demand.

"It's really hit or miss," Steven Sherer of Aloha Organic Fruit in Palisade told The Daily Sentinal. Sherer expects a full harvest of peaches this season.

"You could say it's my skill as farmer or that God answered my prayers," said Sherer, who has 15 acres and 13 different varieties of peach trees. During the cold period, he used the wind machine and propane heaters.

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