NASHVILLE - Don and Katie Henry celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on their Robertson County farm Saturday morning while record low temperatures outside were destroying all their crops.
Twenty acres of peaches, nine acres of blackberries and seven acres of strawberries at K-D Orchard were wiped out - their worst loss in 25 years of business in Robertson County north of Nashville.
"For fruit, there's a big difference between when temperatures are 25 or 26 degrees and when they reach 19 or 20," Don Henry said. "Around here it was 19 or 20."
Temperatures in the 20s set record lows in Chattanooga, Memphis, Knoxville and Nashville this weekend.
On Monday, state officials had not yet assessed how much harm the freeze had done to crops, but several farmers surveyed said the damage is bad.
A reporter calling a Sumner County farm on Monday and asking whether she had reached Bradley's Kountry Acres received the response, "What's left of it."
Asking if the person on the phone was Mike Bradley got the answer, "What's left of him." Bradley said he had been up since Thursday trying to protect his strawberry crop from the freeze.
"We're hoping we were able to save the majority (of the strawberries)," he said, "but we're pretty sure the peach crop and blackberry crop are going to be a total loss."
Bradley's strawberries were still covered in anticipation of cold temperatures again Monday night, but he had made spot checks of a few plants and thought they would survive.
The severe cold snap, known in folklore as a "dogwood winter," followed an unusually warm March that caused plants to leaf out and bloom early.
"The unusually warm weather just pushed everything out ahead of schedule," Bradley said.
The blackberries were blooming and the peaches were already the size of peas when the cold weather hit.
"You kind of expect a few nights around 30 degrees this time of year, but not down in the 20-22 range," he said.
Tennessee Department of Agriculture spokesman Tom Womack said many farmers had planted corn about two weeks early because of the warm March weather. They also planted more corn than normal, anticipating increased demand for ethanol production.
One farmer in West Tennessee had reported on Monday that his 2-inch and 3-inch tall plants were laid over and had turned dark although they were still green near the ground at the stem.
"Farmers are waiting to see if it will come back or they'll have to replant," he said. "It's still early, so there's time to replant, but there's a concern there may be a shortage of seed."
Another crop that could be damaged is winter wheat. Womack said he had heard that at least one Coffee County farmer whose winter wheat crop had been damaged because the grain had already begun to form when the cold hit.
"It will be several days before we know the full extent of the damage to the various crops," he said.