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After 'extensive' frost damage, Vermont farmers asked to tally crop losses

Five people stand in a vineyard and look at a vine
Vermont Agency of Agriculture
Vermont Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts, center, gets a firsthand look at frost damage at Shelburne Vineyard in Shelburne.

The Agency of Agriculture is reaching out to farmers after a hard frost last week did extensive damage to crops across the state.

Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts says farmers should keep track of their losses so they can apply for federal aid.

“Currently there are no state programs that fit this right now,” Tebbetts said. “So getting those losses compiled both in Vermont and our neighboring states, and bringing that to our federal officials may help us.”

Montpelier had a record low of 25 degrees early Thursday, while Burlington tied its record low of 28 degrees.

Tebbetts said most of the Northeast had similar conditions, and with so much crop loss he said there could be federal help as other states assess the damage as well.

“This was a regional event. This was not just Vermont,” Tebbetts said. “This was New York. This was Connecticut. This was New Hampshire. This was Maine. This was Pennsylvania. It was a widespread event, so I suspect other states will be talking with their delegation, and also with USDA, about a significant loss across the region.”

Tebbetts visited Shelburne Vineyard in Shelburne, where he says the tender grape vines got hit especially hard.

“We know and can see that we have significant damage to the vines now, but what we don’t know is whether there’s damage we can’t see to the vines that would help us recover next year if they aren’t affected,” said Ethan Joseph, head of vineyard and winery operations at Shelburne Vineyard. “It’s a real concern and we know other farmers are facing similar questions.”

 A vine appears brown and damaged
Vermont Agency of Agriculture
Shelburne Vineyard saw damaged vines after low temperatures in mid-May.

The cold weather lasted for a few hours in some of the hardest hit regions of Vermont, and Terence Bradshaw, associate professor at the UVM Extension Fruit Program, said fruit growers and vegetable farmers all over the state had significant losses due to the cold weather.

“In my 25 years of working with fruit crops in Vermont, I have never seen frost or freeze damage this extensive,” Bradshaw said in a press release the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets sent out Tuesday. “We expect a difficult season for growers and appreciate the continued support that our community provides to these vital operations that are so important to the Vermont agriculture community.”

At Green Mountain Orchards in Putney the Darrow family called the damage “catastrophic,” on the orchard’s Facebook page. They expect very few apples this year, though they are holding out hope that some of the blueberry crop will survive.

Joseph at Shelburne Vineyard said the cold weather affected the vines, but it will be some time before they know how serious the frost damage is to the interior of the plants.

“This was a rough week for Vermont vineyards,” said Kendra Knapik, president of the Vermont Grape and Wine Council. “We will need to wait and see how this event will impact the industry statewide, but with so many farmers being affected it’s likely to have deleterious economic ramifications for many of these small businesses.”

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or reach out to reporter Howard Weiss-Tisman:


Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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