Post by Brie Mazurek, Online Education Manager for CUESA (1/10/14)
Ted Loewen of Blossom Bluff Orchards was looking forward to one of the best mandarin crops he’d seen in years. The trees were laden with fruit when the cold snap hit the San Joaquin Valley on December 6, sending temperatures into the low 20s.
“We suspected we had some pretty significant damage,” says Ted. “We still don’t know the exact amount, but it looks like it got most of the Gold Nuggets.” Usually a year-round fixture at the Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, his farm has pulled out for the winter and may not be back until stone fruit season begins in May.
Though seemingly mild compared to the sub-zero temperatures experienced in other parts of the country, a recent hard freeze has taken its toll on the California citrus industry, which supplies 85% of the country’s fresh citrus. The trade group California Citrus Mutual has called it the “earliest severe freeze for Valley citrus growers in over 25 years.” As farms big and small reel from the blow and take stock, counties are still assessing the damage to the $2 billion industry.
Thin Skins, Damaged Fruit
In addition to Blossom Bluff, other small, diversified farms at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market have been bitten by the frost. With less citrus to sell this season, Tory Farm has kept a presence at the Saturday market but dropped out of Thursdays. “The bad news was the Page mandarins, which are usually our biggest seller,” says Tory Torosian. “They’re done—90% frozen. We usually have about 400 boxes in a year, and this year it was about 30.” While he is optimistic about his Oro Blanco grapefruits and Satsuma mandarins, he’s still waiting to see how his orange crop weathered the freeze.