Ohio’s fruit crops suffer
By Yaneek Smith
Ottawa County Exponent
For residents of Ottawa County, the hail storm the area experienced on July 1 is something of a distant memory.
Since the inclement weather tore through the community, most people have moved on with their lives and have put the event behind them.
Area farmers and growers, however, specifically those living in Port Clinton, Catawba Island and Marblehead, who sustained significant damage to their crops because of the hail and strong winds, which reached as high as 75 mph, are currently dealing with the after effects of the storm. (Significant damage is considered to have occurred when there has been at least 35 percent crop loss.)
A number of orchards in Catawba Island felt the brunt of the storm.
“A lot of it depends on how badly (the crops) were hit with the hail,” said Jodi Bolen, the co-director of the Farm Service Agency in Ottawa County. “A number of the peaches were ready to be harvested and they were damaged — the peaches that the hail hit are pretty much gone. There were some green crops like corn and soybeans that were damaged, too. Some farmers lost a couple hundred acres or so.”
Beehaven Farms, which is owned by Bob Schraidt, was devastated by the hail as fruit growing on its approximately 500 trees suffered extensive damage.
“We pretty much lost the whole crop,” Schraidt said. “If you try and find a peach that hasn’t been hit, it’s almost impossible.”
He placed a sign, “No peaches due to hail,” out front of the farm shortly after the storm.
Schwan Orchards, which is owned by Brad and Diana Schwan, sustained its share of damage because of the hail but was much more fortunate than Beehaven Farms. Schwan Orchards saw approximately half of its peach crop damaged by the hail, but it is not believed to be too severe.
“You can see they’ve got holes in them and tears,” Diana said, “but we’re selling them at half-price and a lot of people are buying them. (The people) want to make cobblers and jams.”
Quintin Smith, who owns an orchard located just off State Route 53, was luckier than some of the area farmers.
“I had a couple of aprium (a cross between an apricot and a plum) trees that got uprooted and there were some nicks on some of the fruit,” Smith said. “We were probably 500 yards away from where it was really bad. We had a near miss. We had a little bit of damage, I’d say five percent. It could’ve been worse. Some apples. I was expecting the garden to be ripped up, but it wasn’t that bad. A couple of apricot trees, but nothing major.”
According to Bolen, Bergman’s Orchards sustained damage to some of its crops and she notes that some of the grain farmers suffered sizable losses as well.
To put it mildly, the weather has not been kind to farmers and growers this summer. Aside from the few storms of the last several weeks, it has been quite hot and it hasn’t helped that there has been little rain in the past few weeks. According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this past June was the fourth warmest June on record.
“America’s Breadbasket” has been hit particularly hard this summer as sizable portions of the Midwest have dealt with a drought.
“The epicenter (for the drought) is right in the heart of the Midwest,” said climatologist Mark Svoboda of the National Drought Mitigation Center, located in Lincoln, Neb., according to a press release.
In addition to the detriment sustained to the crops, there was severe damage caused to the area by a number of downed trees and damaged power lines. In fact, the Salvation Army sent people and supplies to Port Clinton to help the community deal with the aftermath of the storm. People from the organization passed out bottles of Gatorade and water to a number of residents to make sure that those without power and water could guard against dehydration.
Other parts of the state sustained their share of damage because of the hail and strong winds. The storms, which moved across the Buckeye State around 6 p.m. on that July 1 Sunday evening, left roughly 415,000 people without power, according to American Electric Power. Other cities that were affected by the storm included Findlay, Lima, Columbus and Athens and their surrounding areas.
With some of the crops permanently damaged due to the hail, the fate of the remaining healthy crops will likely come down to how much rain they receive in the coming weeks.
“The problem now, though, is that, on top of the hail (damage), we are competing with this heat and the drought,” said Bolen. “We haven’t had any rain to keep the water tables up. The county as a whole, even the areas that didn’t sustain much damage from the hail, have suffered from the drought, Some crops, like the corn and beans are coming into a critical stage — if the moisture doesn’t come it will affect (the process).”
And while irrigating the crops is an option for some farmers, there is nothing like the real thing.
“There are some guys who use irrigation,” Bolen said, “but nothing is the same as rain. You can irrigate some of the vegetable crops, but basically you’re just keeping the plant alive (and) you’re not allowing it to produce (normally). It all depends on the rain if we can get some rain this week.
“If we don’t get some rain, we’re going to suffer.”