Late Frost and Severe Weather Hampers Local Growers


LINCOLN, Neb.-- One strawberry crop is almost completely destroyed and a local vineyard is still surveying how much they may have lost.

A mid-May frost and severe weather damaged many products on farms around Lincoln, including a strawberry crop at the Roca Berry Farm and potentially thousands of pounds of grapes at James Arthur Vineyards.

"It's not going to kills us," Josh Rockemann, the vineyard's manager, said.

"But, it's definitely going to do some damage."

Rockemann said the recent frost, high winds and hail may have damaged anywhere from 30-to-40 percent of their harvest.

He said this means they may only harvest 40,000 of the 60,000 pounds they were expecting.

Rockemann said the cold sinks down, often damaging grapes in low-lying areas. He tried to spray special chemicals on the crops beforehand to prevent the frost from doing damage, but it may not have been enough.

"I've got one area of the vineyard that will actually be four to five degrees warmers than the lowest spot of the vineyards," Rockemann said.

"And, when it comes to grapes, that can make or break what happens overnight."

It's a similar story at the Roca Berry Farm south of Lincoln.

Though pumpkins are their most important crop, they said an acre of land that usually serves up about 10,000 pounds of strawberries may only produce a few hundred pounds.

Beverly Schaefer, the farm's owner, said they've been harvesting the berries for about 30 years.

"It was really disheartening to come out the next morning," Schaefer said, "and see the little black stems or black centers of the flowers.

But, they're still maintaining a positive outlook because it's a very small part of everything the farm does.

"That's what farming is all about," Schaefer said.

"You get what you get, you do the best you can. So, we're on looking to September and October for our pumpkin crop."

The vineyard said they're in OK shape. Rockemann said they've got stockpiles still from one of their best harvests ever last year. It could be a month until they know how this loss will truly affect them.

Roca Berry Farm said people won't be able to come and pick fresh strawberries like past years.


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