Local farmers are bracing for our coldest night in five weeks. Temperatures in low-lying areas are expected to plunge into the upper twenties both Tuesday and Wednesday nights, initiating a freeze warning across all of Michiana.
Air with that sort of chill could bite the life out of budding fruit already pre-matured by March’s unseasonably warm weather.
"We kind of knew didn't we, that two to three days of that is one thing, but when you get a stretch of ten days in a row, that's not good,” Tabor Hill Winery president Paul Landeck said.
The problem, Southwest Michigan inadvertently freezes at least once every April. Last week's damage across portions of Tabor Hill’s 35-acres can already be seen.
"Yeah see this one, these couple right here, they have frost already. See how it looks kind of brown. It's not good anymore, it's gone,” a Tabor Hill Winery winemaker showed NewsCenter 16.
Such bad news traveled through the grapevine to Round Barn Winery as well.
"For us it's praying to God that Mother Nature’s going to do her thing for us,” Round Barn Winery winemaker Matthew Moersch said.
In a perfect freeze scenario, winemakers hope clouds fill the night sky to add atmospheric insulation. Mix that with moderate winds to prevent moisture from settling and freezing the life out of buds.
"In California they turn off the irrigation and they're ready to harvest. Here we're relying on mother nature and what she's going to do for us,” Moersch added.
"At this point it's in God's hands and we've experienced many more blessings over the decades. It's just the nature of the beast, it's as wild as pulling that slot machine at a casino. It is what it is and if you don't like the risk, then you are not in the right business,” Landeck concluded.
Winemakers say as of Tuesday afternoon, damage to the grape-crop is minimal; roughly five-percent of buds have died off. However, if temperatures Tuesday and Wednesday night dip below 28 degrees, damage could become much more widespread.
Although the agriculture market offers chemical sprays and industrial fans to prevent frost, winemakers say results are spotty at best. Instead, agriculturists at Tabor Hill and Round Barn Wineries are living on a mere hope and prayer.