Phoenix Cold Snap Is Over, But What Are the Repercussions for Local Farmers and the Restaurants Who Buy From Them?
The 5 to 6-day cold snap that pushed Phoenix temperatures lower than those in Chicago and Boston is over, and today, it's positively balmy outside. This morning's low was a toasty 40 degrees in town. For most of us, handling the arctic weather required little more than piling on a few extra layers of clothing, covering the bougainvillea and cranking up the heat. But for our local farmers, it's been a nightmare.
Courtesy of Bob McClendon McClendon looking over his greenhouse
Here's what a few of our prominent local farmers dealt with -- and lost -- during the cold snap.
Full disclosure: I date Dave Jordan, one of the farmers mentioned in this story.
"It's been brutal," says Bob McClendon of McClendon's Select, who kept track of the atypical low temperatures on his farm in Peoria and found this: Saturday morning, 21 degrees; Sunday, 19; Monday, 22; Tuesday, 23; and Wednesday, 27. When temperatures dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit and stay there for several hours, farmers call it a "hard freeze," which often means they'll lose their above-ground crops. Root vegetables have a better chance of surviving, but there's really no guarantee of that either. During the cold snap, temperatures on McClendon's farm were dropping below freezing by 10 pm, which means his crops were exposed to hours and hours of freezing temperatures. The same was true at other local farms, all of which are located in outlying (and therefore colder) areas.
Courtesy of Bob McClendon Farmer Bob
McClendon estimates he will lose 50-75% of his citrus (which represents somewhere between $20,000-$30,000), but he won't really know for sure for the next seven to 10 days. "When you pick it, and it goes soft and squishy in your hand, you know you've lost it," he says. His Meyer lemons, which were at their peak for harvest, are gone, and he figures he'll probably lose his Lisbons (the classic yellow lemon) in another week. Ditto for tangerines, blood oranges and honey tangelos -- all at their peak.
McClendon's Batavia lettuce is toast, the radishes froze, his sugar snap peas are gone (although the plant was saved), and with those lovely favas, it's about 50-50.
The good news is, his greens -- Tuscan kale and chard, for example -- are in amazingly good shape.