Traverse City Record-Eagle


June 29, 2014

Fruit crop a mixed bag

TRAVERSE CITY — No hard frost in spring is a good thing at the Guntzviller’s Berry Farm.

The Elk Rapids-based growers of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and other fresh produce made it through the spring without any cold weather damage to their rows of strawberries, which set the stage for a strong harvest this year.

“We have an awesome crop,” said Rhonda Guntzviller, farm co-owner with her husband, Mel. “We are a week behind because of the winter, but we didn’t have to fight any frost. We have had quite a bit of rain, but we’ve got pretty sandy ground and we mulched with straw, so the rain didn’t damage us at all.”

It’s a strong year for strawberries in the Grand Traverse region but not so sweet for grapes. Some grape varieties were badly damaged by the long, cold winter. Blackberries and peaches are also having a tough year. It’s a little too early to tell for apples, but strawberries, raspberries and cherries are doing well despite a wet, cool spring.

“The very cold temps this winter did take a bit of a toll on trees, bushes and vines,” said Ken Nye, commodities specialist with the Michigan Farm Bureau. “Some cases are worse than others. There was winter injury to more of our tender fruit crops. Wine grapes for sure.”

Coenraad Stassen, winemaker at Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery in Traverse City, said damage estimates to some grape crops range from 60 to 80 percent loss in primary buds.

“It depends on location, vineyard and varieties,” Stassen said. “Everyone is in the same boat.

“We are just starting to go through bloom one, and after bloom one I will be able to make a more accurate assessment,” he said.

Cherries, arguably northern Michigan’s most important crop, are so far so good, said cherry grower Ben LaCross.

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