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Almond Farmers Hit Hard As Freeze Followed By High Winds

LIVE OAK (CBS13) — Central Valley farmers are struggling to protect their cash crops as wind and rain pound the area.

The almond trees have already bloomed, making them susceptible to weather extremes.

"We hit 22 degrees the other morning," said Lyndol Swartz, an Almond farmer in Sutter County.

For 57 years, Swartz has walked his orchards checking on his millions of buds.

"You can tell if they're frozen or not. You can take a bud off," he explained.

His almond orchard is in full bloom but has taken a beating from a wild few weeks of weather.

"I lost 20 acres of one orchard," said Swartz.

A couple of weeks ago it was frost that claimed those 20 acres.
It's about a $150,000 loss.

"That's a good chunk of change, oh yeah," said Swartz.

He isn't the only farmer feeling the freeze. Almond growers across the state are having a tough time with wide variations in the weather.

"Farming is not about extremes. We want things to be more middle ground," said Franz Niederholzer, a tree crop advisor with UC Davis.

He says the frost is one battle farmers stand a chance in fighting. They use irrigation water to hold the temperatures, but only to a point.

"We can't tame Mother Nature. We can round the sharp edges," said Niederholzer.

There is little defense from excessive rain and high winds.

Swartz lost about 30 trees on Thursday after 42 mph wind gusts blew through the orchard.

Swartz says almonds take time, money, and patience to grow. The weather is just a part of the farmer's way of life.

"Frost you can work with, but rain and wind you can't," said Swartz, "that's Mother Nature."

Swartz says it's possible the almond crop will be less this season potentially meaning higher prices for consumers.

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