Alan Schreiber hurried up and down the tented rows of vegetables and melons on his 115-acre farm north of Pasco on Friday, declaring, "Alive, dead, dead, alive, dead, alive, dead."
It was not a pretty picture for Schreiber, whose organic crops have been decimated by an unseasonably cold spring despite being sheltered by plastic covers.
Cantaloupe seedlings were among the casualties, a big hit for Schreiber's farm because of the high demand for them in Western Washington supermarkets.
This year's slow start of the growing season has caught farms like Schreiber and Sons' in a bad way. It was the second half of a double-whammy that began with an early subzero freeze in November before many plants that were expected to survive the winter had "hardened off," Schreiber said.
The deep cold took out all of his young persimmon trees that supposedly were a cold-hardy stock.
Peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, fava beans and cilantro all took a hard, if not fatal, hit or at least had their growth stunted in the fields, Schreiber said.
"This weather has been very hard on us, from having to order extra propane to heat the greenhouse to keep our transplants growing, to the loss of our entire cherry crop last Friday. It has simply been awful and frustrating and depressing," Schreiber said.
April's chill spread across the region, even into Oregon, where a combination of wet weather and cold caused farmers to delay their planting.
Schreiber said his crops are at least two weeks behind, and he is supposed to start harvesting and delivering produce on Tuesday.
He said his cherry orchard is a total loss, and the "jury's still out on my apples."
And after checking on a field of blackberries, he said the plants survived the run of cold but it is unlikely the berries will arrive soon enough or in good enough quantity to satisfy customers.
"Look at this. The snow peas are just barely out of the ground when they should be this high," Schreiber said, indicating a height just below his knee.
The fava beans won't be ready to pick until June when they should be heading to customers next week, Schreiber said.
Perhaps most telling are the radishes, a cold-tolerant vegetable that withstands frost well. But this year the radishes have been so reluctant that Schreiber decided to prepare backup stock in a greenhouse.
Good thing, too, because deliveries to customers are scheduled for next week and his outside crop isn't ready.
Schreiber and Sons is a Community-Supported Agriculture farm, which means it grows crops to sell to people who buy shares and receive boxes of fresh-picked produce as the crops are ready, which is weekly throughout the 28-week growing season.
Schreiber said this spring may be the coldest in a half-century, and while it has slowed the growth the farm still will deliver at designated drop locations throughout the Tri-Cities.
Asparagus, lentils, rhubarb, chives, spinach and spring onions are coming along OK.
But the organic cantaloupe?
Not likely this year, he said.