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Satsumas Survived the Freeze
01/22/10 - 02:52 PM
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Marc McAfee - bio
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click for larger image Jackson County, Fla:

Farmers don’t easily forget harsh weather, according to Mack Glass, a Satsuma farmer in Jackson County.  When asked if it had ever been colder than this month’s chill, it only took him a second.

“January 23, of 2003, we went to 15 degrees with very small trees,” Glass said. “And I remember the day because we thought we lost all the trees—but amazingly we didn’t lose one tree.”

That was the coldest it’s been since Glass planted his first citrus trees in March of 2002.  But the recent freeze was the longest period of continued cold.  He said it had Jackson County citrus farmers feeling a little nervous.

“We really didn’t know what to expect.  We had never experienced that many nights of high teens, mid teens, and low twenties.”

History shows cold isn’t very kind to Florida Oranges.  Once called the Satsuma Capitol of the world, a 1934 freeze destroyed acres of the county’s citrus groves, and put an end to the Panhandle’s citrus dominance.  Freezes in 1985 and 1989 destroyed many of the citrus groves around Orlando.

  But the latest freeze wasn’t nearly as destructive.

“After walking through the grove and looking through the trees now, we’re optimistic that the damage is going to be minimal and we will be able to harvest next November,” Glass said.

Glass reported he didn’t lose a single tree during the cold weather period, and attributes that accomplishment to better technology than anyone could have dreamt of in the 30’s.  Farmers are now able to spray their trees with water during extreme cold, and the melting ice creates heat for the tree to survive the frigid outside air temperatures. 

It apparently worked, and damage is minimal. 

“It’s actually broken a few limbs but nothing drastic, we’re seeing some twig damage but not a lot,” Glass said.  “Like farmers are, we’re always optimistic that we’ll get through this.”

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