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Spin it forward: Clocks spring ahead for daylight saving time
Cold weather likely to impact farmers more than time change
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Peach trees are in bloom on Saturday at Jaemor Farms in Alto. Jarl Echols says Jaemor is bracing for several days of near freezing temperatures and the effect it can have on crops. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Sunday is when we pay back that extra hour of sleep we earned last fall, daylight saving time again resetting our inner and outer clocks for a bit of extra sunlight in the evening.

But even as the days get longer, it won’t feel as much like spring with the return of winter temperatures in the days ahead.

As we undergo the biannual ritual of turning clocks ahead (spring) and back (fall), it begs the question: Why do we do this?

Daylight saving time began as an idea to save energy by extending daylight hours later into the day. Though the idea is said to have originated with Benjamin Franklin, it didn’t take effect until Europe adopted it during World War I to save fuel, and the United States joined in 1918.

The practice was ended after the war, only to be revived during World War II as “war time.” In the years following, different states and towns practiced the time change on their own until Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966, Even then, several states resisted, and still do; no time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.

In 2007, the change to daylight saving time was moved up to mid-March from early April. Standard time resumes Nov. 5.

One of the frequent myths about DST is that it was created to help farmers. Because they follow the sun anyway, their schedule depends less on what their clocks may read.

Jarl Echols of Jaemor Farms in Alto says the time change has no real effect on how growers handle their crops.

“It was an idea that it would change the way people worked a little bit, but actually it doesn’t bother us at all,” he said. “When we get light early in the morning, we start at an earlier hour. It has nothing to do with changing the time, though, really so I’m sort of wondering why we’re doing this year after year after year and messing with everyone’s mind and sleeping habits.

“It really doesn’t affect the way we farm at all. ... You don’t gain any time. It just changes the number on your watch.”

Echols’ bigger worry this weekend is not the time change but the return of freezing temperatures and their impact on crops. The National Weather Service forecast called for a chance of snow flurries in the mountains overnight into Sunday morning with lows dropping into the mid-30s Sunday night and Monday, then below freezing overnight Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We’re right in the middle of blooming season, we’re probably right at full-bloom or past full-bloom maybe a week or so,” he said. “This one, according to the numbers we’re seeing Wednesday and Thursday, could get pretty raw because peaches are really vulnerable at this stage. We’ve got so many acres now, we can’t protect them all. ... We may lose a good many of the peaches.”

Among daylight saving time’s other myths and facts:

• Energy savings. Though the idea was that people would use less fuel with more evening daylight hours, a study by Munich Personal RePEc shows the estimated energy savings to be a mere 0.34 percent.

• The human cost may be even higher. A study “Sleep, Health, and Human Capital: Evidence from Daylight Saving Time” by researchers Lawrence Jin and Nicolas R. Ziebarth in 2016 showed how changing the time effects sleep habits that can impact health.

• Retail spending isn’t boosted, either, despite belief the extra daylight might spur shoppers. A study by JPMorgan Chase Institute show consumer spending only increased 0.9 percent during DST while it decreases 3.5 percent in the fall when the clocks are set back.

Times staffer Katie Tiller contributed to this story.

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