SALINAS, Calif. – A freeze crept into California's Salinas Valley in the early morning hours Feb. 27 and proved a setback for artichokes.

“We suffered moderate frost damage,” said Dale Huss, vice president of artichoke production for Castroville, Calif.-based Ocean Mist Farms. “We’re still evaluating what the total effect is going to be and whether other crops were whacked. I think it will be pretty minimal, but our artichoke production was impacted.”

Overnight temperatures sunk to the 28- to 32-degree range through the valley.

Lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower are among the other crops in the ground, but they’re not as far along as artichokes.

“I don’t believe it was cold enough long enough (to do substantial harm),” said Mark McBride, sales manager at Salinas, Calif.-based Coastline Produce. “Plants are pretty young and resilient at this stage.”

Trace amounts of snow fell in Salinas the prior afternoon. Snow hasn’t appeared inside the city limits since 1962. It quickly melted, and before the weekend was over temperatures rose into the 50s.

Old Oak Ranch, which grows about 850 acres of lemons and 150 acres of avocados west of Gonzales in the Santa Lucia foothills, suffered less than 1% losses, partner Kirk Williams said. Temperatures there reached 27 degrees, but wind machines, helicopters and orchard heaters added a few extra degrees and minimized damage.

“We had probably all the protection we could have going to save everything,” Williams said.

“Weather like this makes you feel like you're wearing a target,” McBride said.

Freeze, snow hit Salinas Valley

Mike Hornick

Artichokes mature in a Castroville, Calif., field Feb. 27