By Heidi Lewis
In agriculture, weather is more than a conversation starter—rain, sun, wind, and frost are collectively the Numero Uno topic for farmers. This year for Midwest farmers, weather is more about the Walk than the Talk. The Midwest fruit belt region in general, including southwest Michigan, where The FruitGuys buys a lot of local fruit, has had devastating fruit yields this summer.
Meta Dunn, The FruitGuys Central buyer, has reported from the Midwest Produce Expo that many farmers have been verbally accounting for yields of only 10–15% this year. That’s not a 10–15% decrease—that’s total yield. On recent visits to local produce and farmers markets, Meta has also seen a significant decrease in variety.
Does anyone remember the big burst of warm weather this winter? It forced fruit tree blossoms to bloom early. Cruelly, it was followed by a deep freeze, causing branches to snap and blowing away blossoms. Adding insult to injury is this summer’s drought. The result of these weather trends equals low availability and impacts size and condition of local fruit. Tree fruit, such as apples, peaches, and nectarines, have been the most affected.
The Midwest already has a short growing season but usually produces a bounty of succulent fruit. This year, as farmers struggle against the adverse weather conditions, our fruit buyers have had to work harder to populate mixes with local fruit. They continue to make connections and support local farmers through this season, albeit in lesser quantities and potentially smaller sizing than is traditionally found in our fruit crates.
As the old farming adage goes: “Make hay while the sun shines!”