Frost Zaps A Portion Of The Early Asparagus Crop

Growers remain optimistic about the season that delayed because of cool spring.

Published on: May 24, 2013

Halfway up the Lower Peninsula's west coast, a bad overnight freeze following Mothers' Day killed off much of the region's early asparagus. In Oceana County—known as the "Asparagus Capitol of the World" for good reason—some growers report losing approximately five to 10% of their current crop.

Ryan Walsworth, one of the county's larger growers, farms outside Mears. Only a couple miles inland from Lake Michigan, his sandy, windswept hills saw enough damage to cause him to call off his workers from what would've been a busy Tuesday.

"We would've been picking today," Walsworth says. "We would've had crews in every field, all day."

Frost Zaps A Portion Of The Early Asparagus Crop
Frost Zaps A Portion Of The Early Asparagus Crop

Even in the farm's highest, windiest fields—the ones that normally would see the least damage—countless mature, otherwise market-worthy stalks were "zapped," rendering them dark and rubbery, flopping over toward the ground.

But with the return of warm, sunny weather this week, Walsworth remains optimistic about the still-young 2013 season. Given the relatively late start his crops (and most others) have gotten this year, he anticipates picking could continue through late June.

"I think we could have a pretty decent crop, still," he said. "Asparagus is pretty resilient. We've had a lot of rain, so there's plenty of water there, so if we get some heat we'll still have a good crop—maybe not the great crop we could've had without this freeze—but I think we still have a chance at a pretty decent crop."

Oceana County appears to have borne the brunt of the freeze. Fruit and vegetable growers in more southwestern and northwestern counties report far less damage from Sunday night's cold snap.