ALDERSON, WV (WVNS) — The calendar says April but someone forgot to tell Mother Nature as many woke up on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, to snow on the ground.
While a minor inconvenience for commuters, harsh cold snaps like this can be devastating to farmers.
For Sunset Berry Farm in Alderson, the roller coaster temperatures in April spelled disaster for their peach trees.
“We also have peaches. And I think I think Mother Nature’s killed most of our peaches. It seems like every week we’ll have a warm, warm week and then a cold weekend, and then several different trees bloom in different times, but it’s just gettin’ em all,’ Said Kent Gilkerson, the owner of Sunset Berry Farm.
In addition to frost and freezes, farmers are contending with higher fuel costs, seed shortages, worker shortages, and so on. Rising fertilizer costs are one aspect of the Ukraine conflict that impacts local farmers.
“The fertilizer, we use, uh, it’s liquid fertilizer. We put there are two or three plants here and we have for I believe was $30 a bag last year to $38 a bag, that’s for 25 pounds. And we use about a bag a day over a season, you know, 60 days. It adds up to a considerable amount of money,” said Gilkerson.
The one silver lining to the high-risk strawberry crop Sunset Berry Farms is known for is, the amount of time it takes to grow and bare fruit. For Gilkerson, his strawberries are in their second year. This allows him to escape this years rising costs for the most part.
For his strawberry plants, cold weather is the main threat. However, according to Gilkerson, so far, so good.
Around the farm rows and rows of strawberry plants are covered under 1.5-gram cloth sheets. Gilkerson said the fabric gave his plants six degrees of protection from the cold. Since his strawberry plants started to flower, freezing temperatures can kill these flowers and the fruit that comes from them later on.
The added protection against the latest cold snap looks to have saved the farm’s famous strawberry crop.
Gilkerson said his plants look good and he is hopeful to open his fields up to his customers. He said his pick-your-own farm is something of a lost treasure in farming so protecting his crop to bring smiles to families’ faces is worth the trouble.
The added bonus of a healthy strawberry crop on track to produce fruit on time, is the upcoming Alderson Strawberry Festival set for May 28th.