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Spring snow? Farmers are loving it

7:56 PM, Mar 20, 2013   |    comments
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First day of spring looked more like winter for fruit farmers on H&W Farms in Belding.

BELDING, Mich. (WZZM) -- Snow on the first day of spring puts many of us in a sour mood.  But not fruit farmers; many will tell you they're loving it.

Consider the beginning of spring, 2012.  Farmers like George Wright of H&W Farms in Belding had to start thinking of spraying for pests.

"We were out here in 80 degrees in our shorts, we didn't like that too much," said Wright. Fast forward to 2013.  "I didn't even know it was the first day of spring," said one of his workers, Felacino Paredes.

Not with snow blowing through the apple and cherry trees.

"That's just great," said Wright. Great -- if you're fruit farmers.  "Everybody is in a good mood, looking forward to a good year," he said.

Wright says the cold March is pushing everything one to two weeks behind schedule.  To him, that's no problem.

"We'd rather have it a little on the late side, it gives us a better chance to have a better crop," he said.

The MSU Extension Office agrees. Educator Amy Irish-Brown says a cooler and slower start is better than a warm, early start. Look to last year, a season that started 30 days early, for proof.

"This was 100% loss," said Wright, pointing to his cherry trees.

Wright's cherries were just the beginning. The early warm up, then a spring freeze, and the summer drought destroyed other crops -- asparagus, apples and more.

So from one extreme to the next, what kind of weather makes for the perfect fruit crop?

"No big swings in the temp, no frosty nights," said Wright.

Irish-Brown considers a perfect year to be when a fruit crop starts within its week of expected bloom. Cherries, typically the first week of April, and apples, the second week of April.  Irish-Brown says that happens once every 10 years. But she says the majority of crops have fallen within a week or two of their ideal date.

And that's where Wright's are headed.

"These buds are closed up, tight, that's what we need this time of year," he said.

We might not like these freezing temps, but if farmers get their way, we'll have a lot more local cherries, apples, and peaches to freeze for ourselves later this year.

"We're looking for 100% crop this year," he said.

Snow cover is another factor.  The MSU Extension Office is monitoring the possibility of a slight drought, depending on how much moisture ends up in the soil.  And of course, any extreme weather this spring would be bad news for farmers.

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