Weekend winds cause big damage for local growers

Hundreds of crops lost from damage

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Kern County growers continue to clean up the mess after strong winds blew into the area over the weekend.

Local growers are used to experiencing wind storms every season, but nothing compares to the strong winds that recently hit Kern County.

“The wind lasted a long time. It came from a direction that it normally doesn’t come from and so that’s a problem for trees. So, we had a lot of damage in form of trees that were blown over, almond trees in particular because of the struck of the almond roots because they are not deeply rooted,” said Glenn Fankhauser, deputy director for Kern County Department of Agriculture & Measurement Standards.

The wind damaged about 1, 500 almond trees.  Farmers say it’s not just a big loss for the year, but potentially several years down the road considering the amount of time it takes to grow a tree.

Officials say there really isn’t a way to protect crops from strong winds, but there are several options.

“Depending on where they were they could plant other larger trees that weren’t necessarily a crop as a wind break.  It’s something that’s not commonly done in Kern County. Most of them would rather take the chance,” he said.

Among the other crops impacted by the strong winds are peaches and area cherries.

“It wasn’t just the wind that damaged the crops, but so did the rain,” said Pedro Martinez, a farm worker.

Leaders with Murray Family Farms say about 22 percent of their crops located in south Bakersfield are damaged with another 15 percent on its northeast location.

“The rain is bad for cherries this time of year as well because it sits on top of the fruit and the stem and it could split the fruit which makes it not marketable,” said Fankhauser.

Growers estimate the damage to cherry crops in Kern County to be about two million dollars, but farmers say it’s not a total loss.

“They could sell for juice because even if they are damaged, they have skin problems, you could still juice those cherries so, they just may change the way they decided to market this year’s crop if it’s damaged in that way,” he said.

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