Sunday, November 27, 2022

Local farmers navigate tricky weather as spring harvest approaches

Residents stock up on fresh goods at the Norfolk Farmers Market. (File photo/ Southside Daily)
Rsidents stock up on fresh goods at the Norfolk Farmers Market. (File photo/ Southside Daily)

As spring comes to Eastern Virginia, local farmers make their way out into the fields for the new season.

However, erratic temperatures have made the task a little more tricky this year.

“Obviously the weather has slowed us down from getting into the fields,” said Michelle Gulden, co-owner of KelRae Farm in Toano.

This month, the area has had days as hot as 82 degrees and as cold as 28 degrees. Historically, the area averages a high of 59 degrees and a low of 38 degrees during March, according to U.S. Climate data.

Local farmers have had to plan around Mother Nature.

KelRae Farm has been able to mitigate any damage to its crops from the up and down weather by using two hoop houses, which are plastic-covered structures similar to a greenhouse.

“Overall we aren’t behind schedule, but we need a break in the weather,” Gulden said.

As the weather gets warmer over the next month, Gulden said she will begin to harvest a variety of greens, including broccoli, cabbage and spinach.

KelRae Farm's collard greens are available at the Williamsburg Farmers Market (photo courtesy of KelRae Farm.)
KelRae Farm’s collard greens are available at the Williamsburg Farmers Market (photo courtesy of KelRae Farm.)

Gulden said she’s been selling her sweet potatoes this month, which she harvested in the winter.

Around the state, it’s too soon to tell how the cold weather will affect the spring harvest, said Elaine Lidholm, communications director for the Virginia Department of Agriculture.

Lidholm said right now is a good time to buy apples because tree fruits aren’t affected by frost-covered fields, like other crops. Other fruits, like blueberries and raspberries, will be ripe for the picking in the coming weeks.

Lidholm, like Gulden, said farmers will begin to harvest greens as spring carries on.

Tracy Herner, market manager at the Williamsburg Farmers Market said this is one the coldest winters she can remember since she became the manager five years ago.

“We’ve had weird weather like strong winds that have impacted local vendors,” Herner said. “Overall we’re expecting a strong season.”

The cold weather hasn’t been a problem for meat and baked goods, which are selling well at the market, according to Herner.

This story was published in our sister publication WYDaily.

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