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Freeze endangering crops and vineyards

BURLINGTON, N.C. — In a typical year, you could expect the small crew at GlenMarie Winery and Vineyards to be going all out to protect their grapes from the April frost but a harsh winter has made this an atypical year.

“Our grapevines have just started putting out new growth for this year so there is some green on these leaves,” said Jordan Walker, a GlenMarie winemaker

Because the grapes are just budding, the company is forced to take a wait and see approach with the freezing temperatures and its crops.

On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, it got lucky.

“These grapes they look healthy and green. They just came out in the last couple of weeks there’s no frost damage on them at all,” said Walker.

GlenMarie calls itself one of the smallest wineries in North Carolina. The owner diversifies and also grows produce for farmers markets in Alamance County. Walker said methods to protect those fruits and vegetables from the chilly temps were not successful.

“The cold weather has just withered [our tomatoes] down,” said Walker.

He thought putting a bucket over the dozen or so tomato plants would protect them from the frost but the cold worked its way into the soil, damaging the plant.

“You take a chance,” said Walker of the summer produce. “If you’re the first or last to market with something the prices are going to be higher and you’re going to make more.”

Greenhouses also helped keep a lot of potted produce safe overnight. Even after a night of temperatures hovering around 32 degrees, the air inside the greenhouse was around 80 degrees the next morning.

Two years ago, farmers were worried about an April frost on more fully developed grapes.

“We were out here all night long with fans going back and forth through the rows keeping the winds stirred to keep the frost from landing on the vine,” said Walker.

If the frost does stick to the leaves it couples with the sun to burn the plants and does irreparable harm.

The owner said in the worst year of his nine years in the wine business frost cost him half his grapes. He’s hoping for a better result this year.

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