Tebbetts: What happened when the frost hit

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:


Categories: Agriculture, Commentary

8 replies »

  1. I guess in 25 years, the director doesn’t recall the snow storms on Memorial Day weekend? Good years and bad years, crops are weather dependent. If my elders read this article, they’d be laughing hysterically. I guess studying this will result in more GMO’s and fake lab-grown food.

  2. And we are going to blame this on who….? We all know who is going to pay for it.

    Keep an eye on the seven plagues coming your way.

  3. I remember that Memorial Day snowstorm: it was soft, wet snow. There were two hard frosts where I live in Orleans County this May, one on the 17th and another a week later, on the 24th. One day during the week in between, I noticed some very unusual ‘cloud’ patterns that resembled a tic-tac-toe board, not very high in the sky. Apparently this was seen in southern Vermont as well. At any rate, it’s good that the growers can apply for aid, but others who need the apples (insects, bears, deer) have no such recourse. As for myself, I lost all but one of the bud sprigs on the viburnum tree in my front yard, which is raided each summer by the red-eyed vireos. This is the only time I get to closely watch these shy woodland birds. Miraculously, a very few new bud clusters have emerged and blossomed on top of the blackened ones: not enough for a feast, I’m afraid. The vireos will be disappointed, but I suppose that they can “eat zee bugs,” as we may be expected to do.

    The Red-Eye

    By Ellin Anderson

    The vireo pipes of his joy
    From dawn to dusk — a silken toy
    With ruby eyes and snowy tail:
    Some lonely emperor’s nightingale
    Who sings with crystal clarity,
    And clocklike regularity,
    And never stops, but only shrugs
    In warbling while he butchers bugs.

    But when the season is just right,
    Viburnum fruit is his delight,
    Reflected in each blood-red orb:
    All of the juice he can absorb,
    And he enjoys it silently,
    The more to savor, just like me,
    What no decanter should confine:
    The essence of late summer wine.

    Sweet warblers, caroling your sighs,
    Grey choristers with scarlet eyes
    And neither respite nor escape
    From ravishment of song and grape.
    Now, sing for your loyal empress, who
    Wears ruby eyes, the same as you,
    Through nights inscribing silent sorrow,
    Till your song says, “Here’s tomorrow.”

    • Thank you Ellin Anderson for that poem! I’ve read your poetry in local papers, nice to see it in Vermont Daily Chronicle, too.

      • Thank you! I was in the Longfellow Society in Massachusetts, which met at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury. Great place to stay for a weekend, last I heard they were staging dinner-theatre performances based on Longfellow’s poems. The bartenders were known to serve free G&Ts to “the poet” (me not Longfellow). He was one of the “Fireside Poets,” whose family-friendly works were widely published in the newspapers of that time. Most of the poems you’ve seen in the local papers are in this book (more books are linked on my website). My friends enjoy reading the poems to their grandchildren.

    • The odd cloud patterns are happening all over. On a crystal clear day, I see the sky duster planes go over and within a short time, vapor trails appear and spread in those inexplicable patterns. Being that the featured crop of this story is wine grapes, it is easy to see who they are truly looking to prop up and aid. My grandfather’s rule – don’t plant the peas until the first week of June. Farmers are wiser and better prepared than the any government stooge or UVM WEF hack. The government won’t allow farmers to farm with methods passed down from many generations.

  4. Valleys had harder frosts than those higher in elevation due to the cold fog settling where cold fog likes to settle. Neighbors near me had losses in the valleys and none up high on the hills.

    Unsure why this is being written and published on June 28th when it happened in mid May. I’d like to see the secretary of agriculture get Vermont covered in sheep and mink and sawmills again instead of wandering in the woods looking for birds.

  5. Kinda cryptic aren’t you Guy. “The view from 116” ? Anson’s office in the AG building @ 116 State St. ? I had ta ……

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