Rain, hail and cold weather pose problems for fruit growers in parts of Utah

Posted at 9:54 PM, May 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-22 10:18:14-04

WILLARD, Utah – The heavy precipitation we've experienced recently would seem to be good news for agriculture in Utah, but some farmers in Weber and Box Elder counties are saying they could use a chance to dry out.

FOX 13 News’ Todd Tanner was in Willard Thursday, where some fruit growers said this is a very challenging year for fruit so far.

Many people are familiar with the fruit stands between Willard and Perry on Highway 89, as they're a Utah tradition. Some of the fruit that’s grown in the orchards in this area also makes its way to grocery stores all over Utah and the west, but, this year, there will likely be less to go around.

“The consumer likes abundance and I do too,” said Steve Pettingill.

But he says his apricot crop will be far from abundant this year.

“As you can see, there's not even, there's no fruit at all,” he said.

On February 10 of this year, we looked at the same trees--which were about to bloom in the unusually warm weather. All the blooms were later killed by frost.

“I have another orchard that’s got about 25 percent, but this is gone here,” Pettingill said.

These 400 trees will try again next year.

“This is normally a tomato and pumpkin and squash field that I grow,” Pettingill said.

Also on hold are the fields of vegetables that are usually full of 6-inch tall seedlings and starts this time of year.

“We haven’t been able to plant because of all the rain water we've had,” Pettingill said. “…We can’t get tractors in here, can’t work the ground."

A mile or so away, Randy Matthews' peaches have problems.

“It didn’t last all that long, but it came down hard here,” Matthews said.

A hail storm last weekend took its toll, shredding leaves and leaving marks on most of the fruit

“It’s edible, but its ugly, and you know how the customers are, everybody wants something that looks really nice,” Matthews said.

Not all the fields and orchards that supply Northern Utah's famous "Fruit Way" are in trouble. Damage from frost and hail has hit some places but not others.

“These probably were colder for maybe 30 minutes longer or an hour longer, and that was enough to kill everything,” Pettingill said. “...We do have peaches, we do have some apricots, and we do have a good crop of apples I think, and a fair amount of sweet cherries, so yeah, we're gonna have fruit.”

In addition to the fruit stands here in Box Elder County, the growers who spoke with FOX 13 News said they also supply grocery stores, like Harmons, with fruit.

They said prices could go up because of the crop damage, but only by a little bit, because they have several suppliers and not all of them are experiencing losses.

Utah County also has a large number of orchards. FOX 13 News reached out to some of them Thursday, and so far they seem to be doing much better when it comes to weather damage in comparison with growers in Box Elder.