Frigid temperatures that brought the parkas back out from their early grave haven't just disrupted the early jorts season the northeast region was enjoying, they've also wreaked havoc on local agriculture, especially fruit trees on orchards in the Hudson Valley. A few more chapped lips and frostbitten fingers is tame compared to the potential devastation upstate, where apple and other fruit-bearing trees were given a blast of cold that killed many of the tender buds moving towards blossoming. In some cases, the cold was so destructive as to render an entire crop dead for the season.
"For things like peaches and plums, I'm pretty sure that's 100%, they're gone," Fred Wilklow of Wilklow Orchards in Highland, NY told us via phone this morning. The trees, many of which began their awakening process earlier this year due to a mild winter, were vulnerable to sudden drops in temperature like the ones last week and another cold snap that hit the area in February. "From late July to beginning of September, [peaches] is the main fruit that we're selling, it's a big one for us."
Not as big as apples, however, as Wilklow Orchards boasts 100 acres of land, 50 of which are devoted to apple trees. "Apples are huge, that's what we live on, that's what we sell from September until June, so if we have no apples that's a lot, it's really bad," Wilklow lamented. "Hopefully there'll be some there, even if they're a little misshapen. If they're injured but they grow, they may be a little misshapen, but at this point, any apple we'd be happy to have."
Apple varieties that open sooner are more likely to be killed by below-freezing temperatures; trees that were still dormant at the time of the recent cold snaps will likely fare better than those whose green had started to show. Wilklow and other farmers in the region have tried employing various methods to keep the orchards warm—including hiring a helicopter to push warmer air down onto the trees and putting heaters in the orchards—but it's still too soon to tell how much of the crop has been affected.
"It definitely was cold enough so that there could be some catastrophic damage to the majority of the apple crop," Jake Samascott, whose family runs Samascott Orchards, told the Huffington Post.
Wilklow isn't ready to sentence all the apples to death just yet, he's still waiting to see just how widespread the damage to the trees will be. "I think there are still apples out there. We're not jumping to too many conclusions yet, we just want to wait and see," he says. "All the tree fruit seems to be damaged, or potential to be. It's definitely a loss, we just don't know how much."