Yestre eve I sat on the deck, watching in awe as the clouds swirled, and then sprang from my chair and hollered for Judy to start ‘battening down the hatches“! We got the cold frame, and farm building’s doors closed and got wet rolling up the vehicle windows as we scurried in to close the house windows. I have seen clouds like that once before, in 1993, when we got grazed by a tornado and hail storm, back before our orchard was heavily bearing, but ruining the local crop. Hail and winds can ruin a fruit crop in the blink of an eye. Fortunately our lay of the land discourages tornadoes, and we don’t get as much hail either.
So yesterday’s storm just kicked up some wind and a bit of rain, and then caused funnel clouds and damage down on the Gettysburg Plain, 20 miles away. We have also noticed, that when we travel in the ‘Flat Lands’, that it is looking really dry down there. In May, and early June they have only been getting 33% of their normal rainfall, while we have been getting near average rainfall. Again, this is due to our mountains being a ‘topographic trap’ for precipitation. I have kept rainfall and snow records for two decades, and we seem to get 10% more rain and snow up here in the mountains.
This mountain microclimate also leaves us about 5F degrees ( 3C) cooler than the lowlands. When all these factors are taken together, that is why the Adams County Fruit Belt (the largest fruit growing area in Pa) stretches from the Mason-Dixon Line, to the Franklin,York, and Cumberland County lines. With the climatic changes (exacerbated by unfriendly and unfair competition in the gobal economy), of these last two decades – we have lost about 1/3 of our fruit acreage. This is a real shame, because I think Adams County fruit is the best in the US, due to our unique blend of igneous soil parent material, microclimate, and the ability of local farmers to get there crop quickly to major East Coast markets.
So if you live within a hundred miles of Adams County, visit our Fruit Belt, and see what a real fresh-picked apple tastes like. If you are in our neighborhood, stop on by!