Frosty Forecast a Scary Sight for Mass. Farmers | NECN

Frosty Forecast a Scary Sight for Mass. Farmers



    There is a possibility that some farmers in Massachusetts could lose their entire income for 2012 with a freeze Monday night (Published Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014)

    (NECN: Lauren Collins, Methuen, Mass.) - The peach blossoms at Ogonowski farm are beautiful, but they're a scary sight for farmers who have an eye on a frosty forecast.

    "There is a possibility that some farmers will lose their entire income for 2012 tonight," says Jim Ogonowski whose Dracut, Mass. peach acreage is relatively small.

    Last week's warm temperatures put some fruit crops a month to six weeks ahead of schedule and made them more susceptible to a hard frost. Peach trees are among the most delicate.

    "Just a frost in the area of 30, 32 degrees, they can survive that. But if it's down below 28 degrees, all those buds are going to start to freeze," says Ogonowski. If that happens, he says, "This year will be a total loss."

    "If we go down to 21 degrees tonight we could see as much as a 90 percent kill," says Bill Fitzgerald, fourth generation owner of Mann Orchards in Methuen, Mass. whose largest crop is apple.

    The more common and profitable apple trees are a little heartier, but still, "Given the stage of bid development now on the trees, we could experience some damage,” says Fitzgerald.

    Small variations make a big difference. Six or Seven degrees, location or wind can be the difference between a minimal and a total loss.

    Fitzgerald remembers his grandfather's stories of the year without a crop. That was 1945. Monday night's forecast presents the closest threat he knows of since then.

    "The odds are pretty good that we're going to be ok. Will we have a bumper crop? Can only hope for that. Will it be weeded out a little bit? Probably at this point."