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Wading River fruit farm suffers 'devastating' loss of crop due to storm

Christine Davis stands with a peach tree felled

Christine Davis stands with a peach tree felled by the storm at Davis Peach Farm on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Wading River. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Davis Peach Farm, one of Long Island's oldest family-owned working fruit farms, suffered "devastating" losses in Tuesday's storm at the peak of its growing season, according to the woman who runs it.

The 64-acre farm in Wading River lost 16 of 59 rows of peaches just as the fruits were ripening for harvest in August, the most important revenue month. Hailstones pelted fruit and wind ripped whole branches from trees, exposing them to disease and insects.

"When you have a loss like this, there's no way to recover from it," said Christine Davis, 43, who has worked at the farm since she was 15 years old. "It's a huge loss for us."

Davis leases the farm and operates it for owner David Davis, her former husband and close friend, she said. David Davis, 82, said the farm has weathered big storms before, including the hurricane of 1938. He said it hasn't been profitable in years.

The company's wholesale business, which ships to local farm stands, is effectively shut down this week, as workers assessed the damage and attempt to recover. At the stand yesterday, peaches weren't available, but other fruits, pies and vegetables were.

Christine Davis said the farm suffered similar blows in Tropical Storm Irene and superstorm Sandy, losing thousands of trees. Attempts to recover through grants and loans were unsuccessful, she said.

There were around 5,000 trees before this week's storm, and Davis said she was still not sure how many will be completely lost because of Tuesday's storm.

"I could not even stomach to go looking through the rest of the orchard," she said after surveying a small part of the damage Wednesday. "Every row I went through there were at least three trees that are totally lost."

Davis has 80 varieties of peaches, along with cherries, apricots, pears, apples and other fruits.

Archer Davis planted the family's first peaches in 1910. His son David Davis "perfected" the cultivation of peaches, Christine Davis said.

Working the farm is no easy job, she said. "Everybody says, 'You're so lucky. You have such a fairy-tale life.' But I want to tell them it's more like a horror movie or a really long soap opera."

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