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Late freeze devastating for crops, but local blueberry farmers remain hopeful

There are some tough days ahead for South Carolina farmers reeling from last week's freezing temperatures. Many are dealing with the worst crop damage in a decade.

Lowcountry farmers are still assessing the damage from last Wednesday's freeze, but there's good news for a blueberry farm in McClellanville.

Blue Pearl Farms seems to be in good shape, but it didn't happen by luck. The farmers tried an old farming method, which made for a very long, very cold night.

By midnight last Wednesday, their 4-acre farm was up in smoke.

“You could see from four or five feet up from the ground to maybe ten feet up was just a solid mass of cloud,” said Robert Solott, better known as Farmer Robert.

His wife, Cheri Ward and 10 volunteers spent a good 18-hours making a smoke blanket. The plumes of smoke warmed the air just enough to insulate some three-thousand blueberry bushes.

“Every fire had a hose, every fire had a person, it was perfect, it worked really well,” Solott said. “I would never want to do it again, that wasn’t practice hopefully that was the only show.”

Solott said the method saved about 70-percent of their farm, which has been a true labor of love for the last seven years.

“It would be heartbreaking because this has been a lot of effort, seriously, a lot of sweat, a lot of hours that after a while, you take pride in it,” he said. “Yeah, it would be devastating.”

When the sun finally came out the next morning, he said the bees were buzzing. Although some bushes are covered in brown blooms, he said the bushes are sprouting pink buds and green leaves, it’s the new growth they hoped for.

“Once the wind blows and some of these brown flowers fall off of them in a couple days, all these new buds will be white and all the bees will be all over them and life will go on,” he said.

It will still be a few weeks until they know just how many pollinated blooms they'll lose. But they’re confident they'll welcome their June 25th blueberry festival in full harvest.

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