Upstate Farmers Battling Freezing Temps To Protect Crops

Weather forecasts predict overnight temps in the 20s.

Freezing temperatures this far into Spring can cause trouble for farmers trying to yield a good crop. Peaches, apples and strawberries are all grown in the Upstate and Western North Carolina.

At Beechwood Farms in Travelers Rest, they are busy making sure this weekend’s freeze doesn’t bust their banner crop.

“These strawberries are local and we know that and they’re the best around,” said customer, Lin Wilson.

Wilson was lucky to snag the last basket of the day before Beechwood closed their roadside stand early to prep for the weather, Saturday. The batch of bright red berries was perfect for jams, according to Wilson. Farmer Billy Ledford agreed, but lingering on his mind was The threat of 28 degree temperatures that sparked an all out counter attack to protect their blooming fields.

“You’ve got to be prepared for this one,” said Ledford.

After all, it isn’t normal to dip this low this late in the season.

“It kind of reminds you that “hey buddy, you’ve got to step up,” he said.

Stepping it up they are with rows after rows of cloth tarps ready and waiting to cover blooms and berries and a sprinkler system that will continuously coat his crop in a thin sheet of ice.

“We’ll run water at about 1/10th inch or so or slightly over per hour,” Ledford explained.

It’s a little ironic that a coating of ice can beat the cold, said Ledford, but he credits a higher power.

“The precision of creation is so precise and it works,” said Ledford with a smile.

As you walk through the strawberry fields, a lot of these bright red berries shine through the leaves. Mr. Ledford said it’s actually pretty early to see this colorful a crop. He said with the cold weather that’s coming this weekend, they’re hoping to protect these berries as well as their future crops.

“I would estimate, even at our best, a 5 or 10 percent loss. The best we can do,” he explained.

While not devastating, it is a blow to his crop that makes its way into stores like Ingles and regional farmers markets. Still, he said they’re going to be ok because he has the right people working to make it right.

“I like working with humble people and we have a lot – I’m going to start crying now,” said Ledford, choking up. “I have a lot of humble people who work with us.”

Mr. Ledford is perhaps the most humble of all. Despite adversity, he still smiled in his luck feathered cap, Saturday, saying “bring it on.”

“We’re going to be ready. When it get’s here, we’ll be ready,” said Ledford.

Beechwood Farms said they will have crews monitoring temperatures and sprinkler systems all night long. Despite the cold, Ledford said a warmup soon should yield a banner crop of berries straight from the fields to your table.

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