Freeze warning issued has farmers scrambling to protect crops

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The freeze warning issued Friday night has farmers scrambling to protect their crops. One farmer in Indian Trail said he put his entire family to work, getting ready for the freeze.

It is no small undertaking. About 25,000 strawberry plants are planted in an area about the size of two football fields. It took the farming family several hours to cover the property.

The crazy thing is they wouldn’t even normally have to do any of this if the plants hadn’t already blossomed.

“Us farmers call that popcorn.”

The strawberry blossoms have already popped and they’re about a month early this year.

“Here’s what is hiding underneath. If you look under here you see all those blossoms, all these will turn into strawberries.”

It’s a blessing and a curse.

“The warm winter temps we had especially the warm temperatures we saw in February really pushed the crops forward. The problem with that is freeze and frost events during March tend to be a lot more common than they are later on in the year.”

That’s why they have covers all over the strawberries at Wise Acres Organic Farm in Indian Trail.

“They act like giant blankets over the strawberry fields, keeps things underneath about seven degrees warmer and also keeps the wind off them.”

Farmer Robb Thorstenson put his family covering almost two acres of strawberry plants so they won’t be killed off by the frost and freezing temperatures this weekend.

“The crops are too important to us to not do it.”

Strawberries enjoy the same kind of weather most of us do – not too hot – not too cold. Thorstenson said it’s hard to tell if the early blossoms mean a longer, more productive season.

“Usually when strawberries end we hit 90 degrees for a few days in a row,” he explained.

Thorstenson never knows what to expect with the weather but he knows how to get ready for it.

“That’s the thing about farming is there’s a lot of things out of your control and you just kind of do the best you can,” he said.

The family plans to pull the covers off first thing Monday morning because they’ve got to let the honey bees come out and pollinate to make the strawberries.

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