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A severe hailstorm passed through Pittsboro around 5:00 p.m. Tuesday evening, May 20. At least six farms within a 3 mile radius of Pittsboro received damage, and some farms experienced a total loss of some crops. The photos below depict damage at four of these farms. This was a big setback for these farmers. Many of them lost spring crops that were just about to be harvested, leaving them little to nothing to take to the farmers’ markets for the near future. They also lost many of their summer crops – the sweet corn, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, etc. that had just been transplanted 3-4 weeks ago. Some crops were a total loss, while others will possibly recover but will be set back several weeks and have reduced yield and/or a shorter harvest season.
Although it was not reported in the media, several Lee County farmers also experienced major damage to strawberries, vegetables, and tobacco. The storm finished off the strawberry season for a couple of our local strawberry farmers.
Tomatoes (foreground) and peppers (background) were flattened.
Close-up of tomatoes. Some tomato plants that have surviving side branches will likely live and eventually produce fruit, but of course the crop yield will be late and reduced. The plants will also be more vulnerable to disease from the many wounds caused by the hail.
In many cases, plants were completely defoliated, as with these pepper plants.
Defoliated tomato plants.
Close-up of defoliated tomato plants (look closely and you will see the surviving stump of one plant in the upper left corner).
Swiss chard will bounce back as long as the crown survived, but all the leaves ready to be harvested were lost.
The bibb lettuce on the left is unmarketable after the hail tore away the outer leaves. It was scheduled to be harvested the week of the storm. Broccoli plants on the right were also damaged.
Lettuce on the left basically “melted” into the bed.
Collards did not stand up well to the hail.
Toscano kale with its thick midribs proved quite brittle.
Close-up of eggplant. Plants with their growing tip intact may survive.