August 5, 2016

Unusual winter weather wiped out the area's peach crop

This should be the time to pick your own peaches at one of the area's orchards.

But unusual winter weather threw off the fruit's development, leading to drastically reduced crops, farmers say.

"This is a tough year for ALL tree fruit — combination of an overly mild winter, which was confusing for the cycle of dormancy and growth, plus a very hard freeze in late winter when buds had just started to form," Carole Fay of Easy Pickin's Orchard in Enfield said.

Easy Pickin's will have no peaches or sugar plums, she said, but will have Italian prune plums in September.

Phyllis Draghi of Peter Draghi Farm in East Windsor said the farm has no peaches or plums.

Agriculture Department spokesman Steven Jensen, who is the editor of the Connecticut Weekly Agricultural Report, said that at least 80 to 90 percent of the peach crop was affected by the weather this year.

"There are very few places that are doing pick your own," he said, adding those are mostly by the shoreline, especially the lower Connecticut River Valley.

Belltown Hill Orchards in Glastonbury said it will have peaches, nectarines, and plums for sale in its farm market, but will not open the orchards for people to pick their own.

"Through many sleepless nights we were able to protect and save most of the tender crops from being damaged/destroyed," the Preli family, which operates Belltown, said in its weekly newsletter. "That being said, we did still suffer crop damage/loss."

Peach trees were affected by warm weather in December and January, followed by extremely cold temperatures in February.

Fluctuations continued with cold weather in early April that affected fruit trees that had already started to blossom as the result of a mild winter with above-average temperatures in March, according to AccuWeather.com.

Fay, speaking for Easy Pickin's owner Brian Kelliher, said the apple crop is also down this year, although the orchard may be able to do some pick your own.

"It's also a rough year for apples, which desperately wanted cold and snow cover in winter and never got that, and then buds froze in late winter," she said.

Several orchard owners said that while the crops are lighter than some years, they expect to have enough for pick-your-own season.

"The crop is affected by the April weather we had, some buds had blossomed and then they froze," said David Kollas of Kollas Orchards in Tolland.

They will start selling apples in the last week of August, but he can't determine if they are ready until he tastes them, he said.

Johnny Appleseed Farm in Tolland said that its apple crop was very good this year and that they will be selling it soon.

Bre, a representative from Belltown Hill Orchards in Glastonbury, said that the apple crop is decent this year.

"They seem OK, they are not as plentiful as they have been in the past," she said, adding they are on time.

Draghi from Peter Draghi Farm in East Windsor said that the apple crop has been pretty light this year.

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