Farmer fights frost with hot air blaster

By: Tim Johnston Email
By: Tim Johnston Email

Like many farmers and plant-lovers facing the possible overnight frost, Kevin Evans is keeping one eye on the sky and the other on the thermometer.

"It kind of makes you grind your hands together. You're wondering what you're going to be able to do, [or] what you can do," said Evans.

Tuesday night, the mercury dropped big time and that's a risk at the Evans Orchard and Cider Mill.

"That's right there on the verge of causing some damage," pointed out Evans, later adding, "I thought we'd have a lot more [apple buds] lost than this."

Wednesday night the temperatures are expected to drop down to the freezing mark and that's enough to make Evans sweet.

"It's like anything else, everything you do in farming is a little bit of a gamble," stated Evans, adding that problem solving changes from year-to-year.

As he explains, the temperature does matter. Even just a few degrees can his harvest.

"It varies. At 28-degrees you may lose 5 or 10% [of the buds], but at 25 or 24 [degrees] you're going to lose 95% of them," said the farmer.

So all over his orchard, Evans has thermometers to help follow the frosty threat, but he also has a special weapon: a large propane-fueled air blast heater.

"If the conditions are right, and it's calm, you can raise the temperature down there on the floor of the orchard and let it [the heat] just drift back up, and you can protect a lot of fruit buds," described Evans of the heating method.

"If we can salvage some crop," Evans justified, "than it's a big advantage to us."

While Evans and his staff are stuck waiting and will likely face a chilly, early morning, he's confident they'll come out on top.

"I think we're going to be okay," said the farmer in the field.

Although, he explains the threat is very real. In 2007, Evans claims he lost roughly 70% of his crop to a freeze.

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