Farms in the southeastern United States are suffering from crop failures that are ravaging agricultural productivity in one of the most traditionally fertile areas of the nation.
Beginning with an unexpected Spring freeze, followed by a chillier than expected May and an accompanying drought, utterly massive crop failures of peaches, watermelons and blueberries have devastated local growers, trickling down the economy to the restaurants, breweries, distillers and markets that depend on their produce, according to the Post and Courier.
Emery Tumbleston, who operates the 18-year-old, 10-acre Champney’s Blueberry farm with her parents, told the outlet they lost about 85 percent of their three types of blueberries following the freeze and another 5 to 10 percent after the drought.
“Compounded to that (freeze) was the lack of rain, so we just got it from two sides this year,” Tumbleston said. “It was taking me over an hour to pick a bucket, which is unheard of.”
In the middle of March, temperatures in South Carolina plunged down to a frigid 19 degrees in some areas, according to Clemson University as reported by the Courier.
Champney’s farm was forced to shut down for the season after just four days. The season is normally four to six weeks.
Thd Bradford Family Farm in Sumter, South Carolina, had a much different problem, too much rain. Owner Nat Bradford suffered the first full crop loss of his farm’s history after two weeks of heavy rainfall choked out the rare, heirloom Bradford breed of watermelon, prized for its sweetness.
The Bradford watermelon dates back to the 1850s and was only recently rediscovered.
Cooks Farm owner, Larry Cook, reported that his 75-acre farm near Trenton, South Carolina, suffered a loss of 30 to 40 percent of its peach harvest. The same summer deluge that choked out Bradford’s melons left the peaches at Cooks Farm dropping from disease.
“What affected the peach crop this year was the cold weather,” Watson told reporters. “We had very few peaches in the months of May and June.”
It was even worse for Shuler Peach Co. and Elliot Shuler in Ridgeville, South Carolina, where a 70 percent crop loss devastated the 2022 harvest. After a 23-degree night in the spring, it appeared that some of Shuler’s peaches had survived unscathed, only for the superficially healthy peaches to reveal shattered pits within.
“A lot of people that bought peaches probably noticed a shattered pit,” Shuler explained. “That’s cold damage that came from that freeze.”
Similar crop failures occurring in the United Kingdom provide a window into what Americans might expect if these failures continue.
“The National Farmers Union are telling shoppers to be prepared to buy ‘wonky’ produce due to the large impact the drought has had on the shape and size of crops,” the Daily Mail reported.
One farmer in Norfolk, England, was left with no alternative but to give away over 140,000 onions. That’s about 40 tons of onions, just to prevent them from going to waste after high temperatures and mildew wiped out 40 percent of his crop and prevented him from storing healthy onions.
According to leaked documents obtained by another UK news outlet, The Guardian, some crops have been left inedible. The National Drought Group allegedly estimates that onion, carrot and potato crops could see failure rates of up to 50 percent across the Atlantic.
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