Michiana orchards still feeling the winter freeze

Niles, Mich. This year’s winter may have taken a toll on Michiana residents, but local orchards might still be feeling the freeze.

“If the cold lasts long enough and it’s severe enough it can actually affect the trees -- they can die,” said Steve Lecklider, farmer at Lehman’s Orchard in Niles.

Lehman’s says the trees are looking alright so far, but the orchard is still waiting on the blossoms to which crops survived the cold.

“I think we will probably not see bloom until about the end of April for some of the early blooming plums and sweet cherries and I think that bloom will carry into May,” Lecklider said.

“Stone fruit” like nectarines, cherries, peaches – anything with a pit are probably the most affected.

Farmers warn that with less supply, prices could go up.

“I think the cold was a little more nationwide,” Lecklider said. “So it will definitely affect this year's prices and probably supply.”

Orchards like Lehman’s freeze extra stores of fruit and use them year-round to produce value-added products.

Jane Lehman Lecklider says planning ahead is vital for any business that relies on mother nature.

“Two years ago we were all caught,” Jane Lecklider said. “We had no cherries, no sweet cherries, no peaches, no apples so we do kind of plan ahead so we have products we can sell.”

Orchard owners are hoping further cold snaps are not part of the Michiana forecast in the near future.

“If a plant is fairly close to blooming, they’re more sensitive to a cold snap than if they are still dormant,” Steve Lecklider said. “So we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens with the weather.”

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