D.C.-area freeze warning has farmers scrambling to cover crops

(Photo: Flickr/srqpix)

With warnings issued throughout the D.C. Metro area about a potential freeze overnight Monday into Tuesday, local farmers are preparing for the effect that the sudden chill could have on their crops.

That includes Frederick County farmer Bill Cline, who has been farming his land in the Virginia countryside for 50 years, and says he's seen nothing like what we've experienced this winter.

"I've seen a lot of different things, but I've never seen one like this," Cline said. "I think we're all nervous around here."

The mild winter and sudden freeze are proverbial blessing and curse for Kline and his farmland. Sixty acres of the 600-acre farms he tends are devoted to growing peaches, apples and berries; all of them are flourishing and blooming ahead of schedule due to the unseasonable warmth.

Kline said it’s the type of haul he would expect to see at the end of April. It could all be wiped out though on Monday night if temperatures drop as they're forecast to - into the high 20s in some spots. That could kill off tens of thousands of dollars of his product.

That sent Cline, his 21-year-old son and three hired hands to cover strawberries and other crops, a race against time and Mother Nature to prepare for the potential frost.

"You worry, but there's nothing you can do about it," he said. "We understand what we deal with."

Farming, the Clines say, is like a roll of the dice. Some years, you hit and you hit big. In others, even when things on the outside look good, a cold wind can suddenly blow in. Despite the unpredictability, the longtime farmers take it in stride.

"You'll make it through somehow...we always find a way," Cline said.