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Business and the Economy

Freeze Hits Local Orchard Hard

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/freezehits_1862.mp3

Local fruit growers were hit hard by temperatures that dipped into the upper teens over the weekend. KSMU's Michele Skalicky has more.

When fruit growers in Missouri arrived at their orchards over the weekend to check their crops, most were met with the same thing—lots of brown, withered blossoms. David Murphy has been running Murphey's Orchard for 26 years. He has orchards in Seymour and Marionville with about 40 acres of apples and peaches each, 3 acres of strawberries and 4 acres of grapes. He says this is the worst spring freeze he's ever experienced

They worked hard Friday night to save their crop of apples, oranges, strawberries and grapes, but temperatures dipped too low

In Murphy's Seymour orchard, the trees are full of brown blossoms that would have been apples by fall.

Murphy's peach trees didn't fare any better.

Growers throughout the Midwest are facing a similar situation. Murphy says this will likely push some fruit growers out of business.

Kelly Smith, Director of Marketing and Commodities for the MO Farm Bureau, says fruit growers across MO are dealing with the effects of the freeze.

And the frost didn't just destroy fruit crops, Smith says there's potential for a substantial impact on the wheat crop in the state.

At vineyards and individual farms that grow grapes to sell to the state's wineries, damage to grapes was heavy, too. A viticulture team traveled the state yesterday assessing the damage there.

MO wineries might have to import grapes and grape juice for their wine production, but Smith says that's a last resort.

Smith says the freeze will likely have a big impact on consumers. But he says that impact won't be felt until later this year.

As for David Murphy, he says insurance will cover some of the loss. He estimates damages will be around $250,000, and insurance might cover 20% of that.

His business supplies fruit to customers out of Murphy's stores at both the Seymour and Marionville orchards. But there won't be any locally grown fruit to sell this year. Murphy usually supplements his crop, if he's light on certain varieties, with apples supplied by local growers. But that won't be possible this year. He hasn't yet decided if he'll open his stores this year with fruit imported from other states since he'll sell only produce that meets his high standards.

But Murphy doesn't plan to quit. He'll try again next year because he says he loves what he does.

Murphy says he'll keep on his current employees, but they won't be able to work as many hours. He says he'll help them out financially if he can.