Fruit growers in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties are still assessing the damage from this week’s cold spell. But we have news that virtually the entire grape crop grown for Welch's Foods in southwestern Michigan may have been wiped out.
Unusually high temperatures at an unusually early time made the plants bud early. Then the frost killed them off.
John Jasper -- area manager with the National Grape Cooperative Association, which owns Welch's -- oversees 250 farmers and 12,000 acres. Of those farmers, he says over 90 percent of their primary buds died. There is a “glimmer of hope” for some secondary growth to push out a little later, but Jasper says for most farmers that is not going to pay the bills or even be economical to harvest.
“This is the worst situation we’ve had,” Jasper said. “...This is devastating for southwest Michigan growers."
Jasper says Welch's gets about 17 percent of its grapes from that area. He says the company could be forced to change recipes for some products.