Cold weather worries strawberry farmers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Cold weather worries strawberry farmers

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January 30, 2007

Mitchell County--It's another cold night in south Georgia. Temperatures could drop to freezing again, and that can mean bad news for farmers who grow fruit.  This month, citrus farmers in California lost close to a billion dollars from weather damage.

Now strawberry farmers in our area are on alert. News 10 spoke with one farmer who isn't taking this chilly weather lightly.

Freezing temperatures can be a strawberry farmer's worst enemy.

"This bloom here has some little damage," says farmer, Scott Vann. Vann keeps a close eye on his strawberries as the temperatures throughout south Georgia plunge.

"Last night it was freezing about 9 o'clock. It was 2001 or 2002, it got down into the teens.  It's hard to protect them when it gets that cold," he says.

And freezing temperatures can not only affect a farmer's profit, but it could cause consumers to pay more for the juicy fruit as well. "It will.  Strawberries are pretty high right now," he says.

But many farmers, like Scott, are fighting the cold. Whenever temperatures dip below freezing many farmers will spray their crops surprisingly with water using sprinklers like this one."

"We normally cut them on when it's about 34 degrees.  It insulates the plant. It won't let the plant get under 32 degrees," he says.

And so far, it seems to be doing the trick. Scott says the recent cold snap isn't enough to hurt business just yet. "They'll still be plenty of strawberries around. I think we can protect them."

But at the same time, he'll be keeping his fingers crossed.  "Strawberries are our main business. I guess that's what we're famous for. Other than our ice cream."

And as nightfall approaches and the temperature drops, you can be sure the sprinklers will be turned on. Vann says strawberries are usually in big demand as Valentine's Day approaches.

The average selling price for a pound of strawberries is about two dollars.

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