|© Mark Bialek|
While city-dwellers luxuriated in March’s record-high temperatures, fruit growers at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market started to fear the worst for their crops. And unfortunately for many, the worst happened.
“We lost everything,” said Bruce Upston, interviewed in mid-May as he and his wife, Jan, packed up after selling the last of their 2011 apple crop at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market . “I’ve been doing this for forty years, and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
At the Upstons’ fifty-five-acre Wasem Fruit Farm in Milan, record high temperatures in March caused fruit trees to blossom two weeks early. The nascent fruits were damaged by frosts throughout April, but it was a hard freeze at the end of the month, Bruce says, that cost the couple their entire 2012 tree-fruit crop: “Apples, peaches, pears, plums—everything.”
Bruce says they’ve had setbacks before, and they plan to be resourceful and keep a positive attitude. Their raspberries, red and black currants, and gooseberries still look promising. Jan always harvests pussy willows to sell along with her homemade doughnuts and jam—and now she’ll just bring more. “And we’ll be bringing some new things,” Bruce says. “Pumpkins, Indian corn, lots of other things we never have time to raise.”
Like many farmers, the Upstons have insurance, but that covers only part of the income lost from their failed crops—not their overhead costs. So the couple will still have to do all the thousands of hours of pruning and other maintenance on their farm through the summer, but without earning income from it.
Scott Robertello, of Kapnick Orchards in Britton, estimates that he lost about 50 percent of his apples—a significant setback, but not as bad as the 80 or 90 percent losses reported around the state. “The southern tier of Michigan had better crops, but as far as why I didn’t lose as many apples as my neighbors here, and hardly any of my peaches, well, there’s no rhyme or reason to it, really. The fruit
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