Warmer March weather destroys berry crop - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Warmer March weather destroys berry crop

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COHUTTA, GA. (WRCB) -- This Independence Day, one couple's American dream of retiring early is on hold. Nature has given their side business a turn for the worse.

Rick and Sherry Williams have owned and operated "The Berry Patch" in Cohutta for about four years. But their blackberry crop was fooled by unusually warm weather this March.

"It tricked all the fruit into thinking it was time to bloom and bud and make their little baby fruits," explains Sherry.

Then a frost right after Easter killed 95% of the crop. The farm, Sherry says, looked like a cotton field.

Only 20 gallons out of an estimated 600 could be picked. Most of what did survive went home with a small number of lucky regular customers.

"We've had to forewarn everybody, especially the Atlanta crowd, don't come this year," says Sherry.

This was disappointing to at least one caller wanting to make a red, white and blue pie for the Fourth of July.

The Williamses, now in their mid-50s, were expecting a more than fruitful bumper crop this year. This would provide more financial support toward their goal of retiring at age 62. 

"Yesterday I got to take $300 to the bank," says Sherry. "This time last year we had already broke 2,000."

So they'll have to wait longer to leave their regular jobs.

Their time on the farm has been spent clearing away crunchy brush to make room for next year's hopeful harvest.

"All the dead blooms on the canes that didn't have berries, we still got to cut them out," explains Rick. 

Nearly 30 rows worth of crops met their demise.

But the Williamses don't just miss the extra money. The business is also about people and seeing familiar faces.

"We miss all the customers," says Rick.  "All the people that have come since we opened here and have been here every year."

New faces, they say, would've been nice too.

Even though Mother Nature threw them a curve ball, the Williamses know farmers have to maintain a bright outlook for the future in order to survive.

"We just have to chalk it up and say, 'hey, there's next year'," says Sherry.

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