Cold weather makes it a "double whammy" hurting farmers - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Cold weather makes it a "double whammy" hurting farmers

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

The staff members at Crabtree Farms in Chattanooga have spent the last two nights trying to protect their crops from the late-season hard freeze. It's possible not everything will survive.

Channel 3 visited the farm in late February and found out that many crops planted last year had been destroyed by the warm winter. Now the mid-March freeze has Executive Director Sara McIntyre scrambling to save the fruits by spraying water on them.

"We attempted to save the blueberries last night," says McIntyre. "When you encase them in ice, it tends to protect the bloom blossoms, buds, even baby fruits."

This controlled freeze will hopefully save most of the blueberries, but it's not a guaranteed shield from the harm Mother Nature can do.

"Our coverage still has a lot of holes and gaps. So there are bushes that didn't get covered in ice at all," adds McIntyre.

There's another method that could have helped.

"A warming truck that's blowing warm air on them all night, creating a miniature habitat of warmth," explains McIntyre.

But the small, non-profit can't afford this kind of equipment. McIntyre had to make a tough decision on what to spare from a cold death. The blueberries won the draw.

"What is a really economically important fruit crop for us? Let's target that one and we're just going to have to say goodbye this year to the other fruits," McIntyre lamented.

This could include peaches and pears. Other crops like tomatoes and peppers can only be covered in plastic or cloth and might turn out better, as well as cabbage and broccoli which enjoy the shot of cold weather.

But any positive affects of the freeze will likely be temporary.

"These two cold nights aren't going to solve our insect and warm winter problems," says McIntyre.

If there's one bright spot for Crabtree farmers it's that the uncooperative weather didn't shrivel up all the fruits of their labor.

"Luckily, the blackberries weren't in bloom. So, hopefully we'll still have a  full blackberry crop," adds McIntyre. But it'll be hard to bounce back.

McIntyre can't put a dollar figure on what she might lose. It's a waiting game at this stage. She should know by early May whether any of the blueberries, peaches, or pears survived.

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