Freeze impacts one Valley farmer's tropical fruit harvest

FRESNO, Calif.

Pang Chang knew his farm would suffer some damage because his trees aren't meant to grow in the extreme cold. But the stretch of sub-freezing nights took a devastating toll.

It would be difficult to find a Valley orange grove which has suffered more damage. Pang Chang's trees were burned by the freeze. He normally ships his oranges to Minnesota. But a week from harvest Chang and UC Small Farm Advisor Michael Yang found cocktail oranges dried up on the inside, a total loss to Chang.

Chang's tropical farm is protected by plastic inside a hoop house but the guava, mango and papaya trees didn't fare much better. Many are burned. Green fruit from brown trees won't survive either.

"The tree doesn't provide nutrients to feed these and that's it. These will be gone," Chang said.

Chang said he discovered these trees covered with frost even though they were covered by plastic.

"I felt very sad because I tried to prevent everything possible because I put a lot of work in here," Chang said.

This is what the farm looked like two weeks ago. Chang planned to harvest his tropical fruit and sell it during Hmong New Year. But big reward often comes with big risk and this year unfortunately he took a big hit.

"He might be able to salvage some of these but you see as we walk out there a lot of these fruits are dropping. He lost half of these," Yang said.

In the middle of Chang's farm some trees are still green still full of sweet fruit. Even the bananas managed to survive. But Chang's losses easily top $10,000.

"If myself I will cry but what can you do, it's natural once in a while, not just for me but the whole central Valley," Chang said.

And keep in mind his heavily damaged trees won't produce fruit again until 2015.

Chang's tropical farm is insured but not his citrus. That could change if a freeze disaster is declared in Fresno County in the future but that all depends on how much damage is ultimately reported.

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