As I reflect on my first three weeks with Wilbur-Ellis I start to realize how much I have learned. I have lived in Michigan my entire life and had no clue how big the fruit industry was in the Traverse City area. I drive between fruit orchards five days a week and still cannot believe the amount of cherries, grapes, apples and numerous other varieties of fruits there are. There are many things I have learned about the fruit industry in this small amount of time.
I come from a dairy farm in central Michigan and since moving here I have learned that us flatlanders have it easy compared to the fruit growers of Northern Michigan when it comes to growing crops. We have great soil and are a little less reliant on the weather than fruit farmers. The soil in Traverse City is pure sand and mother nature is merciless. This year there were two nights in a row where it got significantly below freezing. That was not a problem for people with row crops because most of them did not have a seed in the ground yet. What this freeze meant for the fruit farmers was sleepless nights wondering if their cherries and apples were going to survive the cold. A lot of these farmers had apples and cherries that froze and will not grow back. That simply means a smaller harvest and less money in the bank at the end of the year. It was a tough spring up here.
In the past week or so I have really seen the effect of this cold weather. Cherry blossoms dropping off the trees, leaves being shriveled up and black and even some grumpy farmers. Even with this rough spring there is a lot to be learned for an intern like myself. I have learned how to differentiate pest damage from frost damage. Another thing I learned about the industry was that maybe the freeze was not such a bad thing. There has been such a good crop of cherries in years past that prices are way down. Some farmers are hoping this limited harvest will help boost prices. The picture below is what frost will do to the leafs on a sweet cherry tree. As you can imagine this is not healthy for the crop and also killed off some of the cherries.