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Late freeze wipes out apple crop

Local farmer turns focus to other crops this year

May 18, 2012
By DAVID ALEXANDER - Staff Writer ( , Times-Republican

Bob Atha thumbed one of the few apple buds to survive the mid-April freeze.

"It didn't get that little guy," he said. "But he is awfully lonely."

Just as Atha, owner of Appleberry Farm, 2402 W. Main St., and others feared, the mild winter that caused his apples and other farmers' crops to bloom early proved detrimental when overnight temperatures dropped into the low-30s and upper-20s.

Article Photos

Bob Atha shows off his burgeoning peppers at Appleberry Farms, 2402 W. Main St., Thursday afternoon.

Atha said he and his wife lost their entire apple crop because of the weather. It's the first time that has happened since he opened the farm.

"It really nailed us pretty good," he said. "It's kind of a bad time for us ... we will just have to wait another year."

Although the orchard will have none of its namesake's crop, the Athas are far from out of business. The farm also produces tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers and pumpkins.

Atha has already begun planting everything except pumpkins and said he is trying to stay focused on looking forward instead of dwelling on his lost harvest.

But the news isn't all bad for area fruit farmers.

While agronomists have predicted similar results for strawberry and grape crops, Joel Kopsa, co-owner of John Ernest Vineyard and Winery in Tama, said his family's grape crop had held up well during the freeze.

"I don't think it is going to affect how much we produced," he said. "That is just one bullet that we dodged."

Kopsa said perhaps his winery's grapes growing on a hill as opposed to low-lying land may have saved his crop.

Although he said it is still too early to take into account every variably, it looks as though only one variety of grape sustained any damage, and even that was minimal.

"A grape is not like an apple tree," he said. "They are pretty tough."



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