Harvest season bares bounty in Tidewater

Tidewater’s autumn harvest is proving to be a mixed bag for farmers who endured a summer of extremes.

As Halloween approaches, pumpkin pickers should know the gourds are looking gorgeous this year.

“Virginia is fortunate to have a favorable environment for growing pumpkins, which brings many opportunities for consumers across the state to enjoy fall festivals and pick-your-own pumpkin activities,” said Sandy Adams, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services commissioner.

The weather, though, proved to be rough for some Tidewater farmers this year.

“Everything looks so promising, but you can’t control the weather,” King and Queen Farm Bureau President Lawrence Simpkins said. “This year, it caught us and had a negative effect.”

Simpkins said this summer was one of extremes — very dry at times and overly wet during other periods.

The Tidewater area normally averages about 45 inches of rain each year. Thirty-four inches of rain have fallen on the area in 2017, about a half-inch short of the pace for this time of year, according to National Weather Service data. February and June were particularly dry months, while August rains surpassed historic averages.

In coastal Virginia, farmers are more likely to produce corn and soybeans than any other field crop, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Statewide, farmers soybean production was up 7 percent from 2016, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Corn yields were down 8 percent from the previous crop.

“Too much rain and not enough rain doesn’t do no good for my crops,” Couch's Corner Berries owner Thomas Couch said.

Couch said he doesn’t feel the weather affected the crops on his New Kent farm any different than in previous years. The Poindexter Road property sells asparagus, several types of berries, local honey and homemade jams.

The August rain improved yield prospects, said Herman Ellison, Virginia state statistician with the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Weather that can harm plants can also be detrimental to animals.

Bees Knees is a family farm in King William that focuses on poultry.

“We move the turkeys and the chickens every day so they get new pastures to eat every day, then they leave behind their poop and that makes the grass green,” Bees Knees’ Sarah Williams said.

Bees Knees process 300 to 400 turkey’s the week before Thanksgiving each year.

“It was rough when it was dry, but ever since the rain started in August it’s been much better,” Williams said.


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