by Anson Tebbetts, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture
One day and night in May was not kind to many farmers. On the early morning of May 18, The Green Mountains and neighboring states experienced a freeze event which decimated the apple, grape, and other fruit crops for the season.
According to the US National Weather Service in Burlington, many below freezing temperatures were recorded overnight May 17 into the early morning hours of May 18, including a record low of 25 degrees in Montpelier while Burlington tied its record low of 28 degrees.
After the freeze, with the help of UVM researchers we toured the Shelburne Vineyard in Shelburne. The losses caused by the late Spring frost is heartbreaking for those who produce fruits, produce berries and wine. The hard freeze will mean significant losses for our growers and those who make their living off fruits and vegetables. The extent of the damage may not be known for months but early indications are discouraging.
We heard from Kendra Knapik, President of the Vermont Grape and Wine Council: “We will need to wait and see how this event will impact the industry statewide, but with so many farmers being affected it’s likely to have deleterious economic ramifications for many of these small businesses,” Knapik said. “This is a setback we will overcome, but it is a harsh reminder that we are at the whim of Mother Nature, and there are some parts of farming we cannot control. Most vineyards in Vermont do not have frost mitigation infrastructure like wind turbines and the tools to light vineyard-wide fires that many more established vineyards outside of Vermont had to soften the damage.”
On the tour was Dr. Terry Bradshaw of the University of Vermont. Dr. Bradshaw has been working with farmers and collecting information about the extent of the damage. “In my 25 years of working with fruit crops in Vermont, I have never seen frost or freeze damage this extensive. My team is systematically collecting damage data across the region to help inform next steps to respond to this event. We expect a difficult season for growers and appreciate the continued support that our community provides to these vital operations that are so important to the Vermont agriculture community.”
Any impacted farmer in our region is encouraged to report their losses to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) through their local Farm Services Office (FSA). It is unclear whether those who sustained losses will be eligible for financial relief assistance but it’s important to document and report any damages as soon as possible. You can find your local FSA office phone below: