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Have Coastal Bend farmers changed tactics after Big Freeze?

Local agriculture still recovering from last February's weather
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Posted at 5:01 AM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 07:55:40-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — We have experienced a roller coaster in temperatures the past few weeks. While we recently reported on the winter outlook for South Texas, local agriculture is still recovering from last February’s big freeze.

What changes are Coastal Bend farmers making this winter after enduring last February's big chill?

Andrew Edelen, a second-year farmer at Edelen Farms in Alice, said with the recent cold fronts he’s lost a lot of winter crops.

“And that’s just due to the drastic temperature change," Edelen said. "They are traumatized by the hotter weather. And then when you introduce that cold weather, and we can go in depth, a lot of stuff they are just not ready for."

Edelen said he's reinforced pipes above ground to prepare for more cold weather.

“Just so we don’t have to fix pipes hopefully in the future," Edelen said. "And so we aren’t trying to scramble in the last minute to find insulation and cover up pipes."

Edelen said he will not increase prices, but he is dealing with a product shortage especially for cabbage and lettuce because of the temperature changes.

He said he is not farming differently, just preparing differently like protecting his citrus trees.

“Get some PVC’s just a cube structure that sits over the tree and then I can put a designated tarp, I’ll buy a specific frost protection tarp," said Edelen.

Next month marks the anniversary of infamous "Big Freeze." According to the New York Times, Texas farmers and ranchers lost at least $600 million to that winter storm.

Joe Knolle Jr. who runs Knolle Dairy Farms in Sandia, Texas, remembers just how quick he had to adapt to to the cold weather and get to work.

"Maintaining electrical power to maintaining hot water systems to being able to care to present urgent care to small livestock and things like that," he said.

Knolle said the chilling temperatures had a strong impact on his dairy farm.

“We had problems with small livestock, we had problems milking cows, we had problems with the equipment and of course we weren’t able to ship any milk," Knolle said.

There's no increase in prices or problems with supplies a year later after the big freeze for Knolle's farm, but having hot water system working would have helped out.

Knolle said he hasn't changed his farming tactics, but the Big Freeze opened his eyes to having a better plan next time.

“How do we continue to operate this facility without electricity for a protracted period of time if it ever happens again," he said.

The Farmer’s Almanac provides weather forecasts for each month of the year, rather than a climate outlook.

And because the weather is always changing, it’s difficult to forecast accurately more than a week out, let alone months.