[MUSIC PLAYING] TODD FURBER: Cherry Long Farms, I'm fourth generation. As far as extreme weather goes, yeah, I do believe that climate change is happening.
DAVID COENE: Growing up on this farm, I've lived here now for 44 years. It certainly appears to me that we are seeing more extremes in our weather. In the past five years we've seen two major hailstorms and a major freeze event. That, to us, shows that climate change is happening to some extent.
ROD FARROW: I moved to the United States in 1986. And certainly it's been a surprise over the last few years how much earlier the seasons have become, in general, to me. And we've certainly moved our bloom time forward probably at least five to seven days, and in some years, a lot more than that. How much of this we can attribute to climate change is still a little bit debatable to me personally. But there's certainly a sense that things are changing here and that the climate is getting a little more unpredictable.
And the risk of early season and early bloom seems to be greater and greater every year. The chances of a warm spell in March, an extended warm spell, seem to be much larger now than they were 10 years ago.
TODD FURBER: The big historic freeze that we've seen since, I guess, the 1930s, we decide we want to do something to try to help protect our crop. And the wind machines right now seem to be probably one of the best ways of protecting your crop. I think it got to minus 12 one time here this winter, and the machines were running and it was like minus 7. So that could be the difference between saving your fruit and not.
The cost of doing business today, you can't afford not to have a crop. So you have to do things to protect yourself. And this is just one way of doing that. There's not too many alternatives.
ROD FARROW: I would say in general our farm's definitely vulnerable to extreme weather events. It always has been. We're at the mercy of Mother Nature no matter what we do. The question is, has the frequency increased, and the risk? Certainly I'd say there have been a lot of extreme instances of weather over the last 30 plus years here. We've had a number of very large hailstones. But certainly the frequency of that has been greater since 1998.
One of the things that drives what you do in terms of risk management is the profitability of your business. And a profitable business can afford to do things to mitigate risk, whether that be invest in frost machines or try to choose better orchard sites or add overhead cooling or overhead irrigation, frost protection. Through the 2000s, the orchard business has generally been pretty healthy. So I certainly see an uptick in investment, in risk management.
Anywhere we have reasonable sites or good orchard sites, we've survived any frost that we've ever had, including 2012. And we look at it as a company strategy that investing in the highest possible fruit sites or orchard sites has just as big if not greater economic impact than trying to mitigate a site that's going to be at risk in years when it's cold.
DAVID COENE: We haven't thought at any great length yet about wind machines here along the lake. We've only seen one major frost event now in the past 40 years that greatly reduced the crop. We've seen some that have nibbled away a part of it, but only one that was very severe. I'm sure if we were to see another event here in the next year or two or three years that greatly reduce the crop, then we would have to look at wind machines.
I believe that there is a psychological impact on us. It makes us very nervous about the future with where we're going. It makes us look at crop insurance in a different light to try to hedge our bets on-- with the cost of inputs today into growing a crop, it makes it very difficult with the uncertainty of the weather events that we have.
TODD FURBER: Once crop insurance came out, that kind of changed the game a little bit. That helps you sleep at night. We purchase crop insurance not to try to make money on it but to help make ends meet.
ROD FARROW: Certainly multiperil insurance can help in years of distinct disaster and actually make years that could be very, very bad for you actually years that you could not necessarily thrive in but you can at least survive through. So we're big believers in that. The premiums are getting more and more expensive, but that's probably a reflection of how many claims are being made.
The strategies that are being used at the moment to lower your risk are definitely trying to preserve the economic viability of fruit farms and the businesses in general in Western New York. But not all climate change is negative. So increasing the number of heat units per season has a positive impact on what we can do for fruit size, potential yield, and return bloom tree health. So there's always gains and balances with anything. We certainly have a little bit higher risk, but we also possibly have a slightly higher potential in terms of yield and value.
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Various apple growers in New York State discuss extreme weather and climate variability impacts on their farms. Featuring: Rod Farrow of Lamont Fruit Farm in Waterport, NY; Todd Furber of Cherry Lawn Farms in Lake Ontario Region, NY; and David Coene of Windmill Farms in Lake Ontario Region, NY. The Climate Smart Farming videos are produced by the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture (CICCA) and ConservationBridge.