Above Average Temperatures Have Farmers On Close Watch

By Brett Baldeck | 

The calendar says "Tis the Season", but the weather feels spring-like.

Above average temperatures to start December have area fruit farmers keeping a close eye that there is not a repeat of last season.

"There was approximately a 90 percent loss of all fruit and actually the economic loss goes beyond that because at some point it's not economical to harvest," says Ralph Jenkins of Kentucky Hilltop Vineyards.

Jenkins provides local wineries with grapes. He says warmth last winter, followed by a deep freeze, is to blame for the dramatic loss.

"The plants had grown buds of leaves, actually had leaves, and more important the fruit clusters had begun to form and so when the freeze came it killed all the fruit clusters," says Jenkins.

The empty vines from this season's unusually warm weather have now caused wineries to search for their grapes elsewhere.

"We were a couple, about 6,000 pounds short, this year because of the late frost more than anything else and I'm going to be getting this year's crop for the first time by buying wine juice out of New York State," says Rex Reid from from Reid's Livery Winery.

Reid hopes this week's warmth isn't a sign of above average temperatures this winter. He wants his wine to once again be bottled with local grapes.

The stress of his livelihood being dependent on a weather forecast hasn't phased him yet.

"You know when you are farming you are always scared to death most of the time about the weather, but you can't really control it, so you can't stay awake at night about it," says Reid.

Despite using out-of-state grapes Reid says local wines will still taste great.

Both Reid and Jenkins say real concern about their crops will not set in unless the above average temperatures last all winter.

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