Below freezing temperatures take toll on livelihood of small Valley farmers

Valley citrus growers work around the clock to combat freezing temperatures.
December 6, 2013 5:03:49 PM PST
In some parts of the Valley wind machines are working to move warmer air around citrus groves. But small farmers don't have those kinds of protections.

Frost-sensitive vegetables were no match for the hard freeze. Lemon grass was protected by a plastic tarp but many other crops growing in a Southeast Fresno community garden have won't recover from the freezing temperatures. Small farms are especially at risk during the cold spell.

"It's definitely tougher because again they're not necessarily set up so proactively to deal with these types of freeze events. Some of the specialty crops that some of our Southeast Asian growers have we know there's a susceptibility there," Fresno County Farm Bureau Executive Director Ryan Jacobsen said.

Citrus growers know the industry will take a hit but the extent of the damage won't be known for a few weeks. Orange, lemon and mandarin samples were taken from areas where the lowest temperatures were recorded. Inspectors will cut the fruit next week to look for freeze damage.

"We want to make sure that the consumer is getting the product they feel like they are purchasing but for the industry it is to maintain their product and its high quality and to standards. People's names are associated with that," Fresno County Deputy Ag commissioner Fred Rinder said.

Rinder said the smaller, thinner skinned mandarins will see some damage as temperatures dip below 30 degrees. But the extent depends on the duration of the bitter cold.


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