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Fennville fruit farm working to save fruit from freezing temperatures

Posted at 8:49 AM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 08:51:48-04

GANGES TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Michigan fruit farmers are working to protect their crops during Michigan's spring frost.

READ MORE: Cold temps put West Michigan fruit growers on high alert

Scott Phelps, vice president of Gold Coast Farms, says he has been working around the clock to try and save his apples and peaches.

The farm is located about three miles from the shore of Lake Michigan.

"It's been a long night," Phelps said. "I started our frost fans about 2 o'clock (in the morning). They worked okay. Yesterday did not help; it was cloudy, it was windy, inversion conditions weren't great. But we held temperatures. We burned a few brush piles ... we're doing all we can do."

The frost fans help pull warm air down into the plants.

Phelps said the goal is to keep the temperatures for open flower peaches at 27-28 degrees and closed flower peaches at 25-26 degrees, and apples shouldn't go below 27 degrees.

"We were 3-4 weeks early and then the cold before this slowed us down some, but we're at least 10 days early, 10 days and two weeks early," he said. "It's just been a battle with these up and down temperatures. We just get started too early in the spring."

"I feel better about tomorrow because they're talking a west wind. We need that lake effect; if we can get the west wind, we shouldn't get very cold."

We asked Phelps how this year's frost compares to 2012. He said they had no wind machines then and picked about 1,000 bushels of apples and 1,000 bushels of peaches that year.

"Since 2012, we lose peaches about every other year," he said. "There is something changing about what we do. We never lost peaches in the fall ever; you lose them in the winter. Now we lose them in the spring."

"We don't need three years in a row of these losses," Phelps said.

"Apples are apples. They're the mortgage payment because they are pretty consistent," he explained. "Peaches are our little gold mine. And we have crop insurance; the problem with crop insurance is it goes on your averages, so when you have good averages, you have one bad year you start throwing zeroes in there and some short crops, and the crop insurance doesn't pay so well. So it makes it a challenge."