Saturday, May 21, 2022

Local farmers navigate tricky weather as spring harvest approaches

The Williamsburg Farmers Market, which celebrates its 16th anniversary in 2018, reopened for the season earlier this month. (Photo courtesy of the Williamsburg Farmers Market)
The Williamsburg Farmers Market, which celebrates its 16th anniversary in 2018, reopened for the season earlier this month. (Photo courtesy of the Williamsburg Farmers Market)

As spring comes to the Historic Triangle, 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, Williamsburg 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.

Williamsburg has also seen less precipitation than usual this month. In March, there’s been an accumulation of 2.38 inches of precipitation, according to Weather Underground. Historically, the area averages 4.33 inches of precipitation for the month, 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.

Herner said she expects more foot traffic at the farmers market beginning in the last week of April and the first week of May.

That’s when vendors will start selling fresh fruit, and produce such as strawberries and asparagus, Herner said.

The only constant for farmers, as they transition from winter to spring, is to expect the unexpected.

“In Virginia it’s like nothing and then everything all at once,” Herner said.

The farmers market is open from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays and is located within Merchants Square at 402 West Duke of Gloucester.

Troy Jeffersonhttp://wydaily.com
Troy Jefferson is the city of Williamsburg and James City County reporter for the WYDaily. Jefferson graduated from Michigan State University and the University of Maryland. When he is not writing stories, he enjoys romantic comedies.

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