Fruit farmers busy keeping eyes on upcoming crop - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Fruit farmers busy keeping eyes on upcoming crop

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(Western Mass News photo) (Western Mass News photo)

You may not be thinking about it, but winter can play a crucial role in a farmer's fruit crop. 

As another cold season continues, one local farmer gives us the lowdown on what we can expect out of this year's crop and it may be better then you think. 

Fruit farmers keeping busy, even in the wintertime.

Elly Vaughan, owner of Phoenix Fruit Farm in Belchertown, has been hard at work pruning her apple and peach trees.

"Basically, we want to increase air, light, and sun penetration and it reinvigorates growth in the trees and keeps them in the right shape," Vaughan said.

Weather can play a major factor, especially winter.

In 2016, a cold snap came around this time in February injured all the buds, which meant no flowering and virtually no peach crop.

Last month's below freezing temps were dangerous enough for people, let alone fruit.

Fortunately for farmers, these two snaps were not the same.

"Last time when we lost our crop, there was a big fluctuation. It had been mild, been like 50 degrees, then all of a sudden it was cold. This year, we had more of a gradual cool-down leading up to the cold snap," Vaughan added.

While 2016 was poor, 2017 was a complete 180 with steady rain and sunshine, producing a high quality crop of apples and peaches.

So how about 2018? 

"We're still seeing plenty of healthy buds out there, so we will still have a crop, but again, we just have to cross out fingers because a lot can happen between now and the spring," Vaughan explained.

While we have had a series of smaller storms, coatings, and dustings, any snow for that matter is actually good for the trees this time of year.

"It does provide some insulation for the roots, so it sort of buffers them against those temperature fluctuations,"Vaughan said.

The snow serves as a water source too.  Vaughan told Western Mass News that the region is still recovering from the drought a few years back and so long as there are no surprises, it should be another solid crop for the 5,000 fruit trees on this farm and beyond.

"As long as it stays cold, and then we get a gradual warm up in the spring, then we'll be golden," Vaughan said.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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