Weather can be one of the biggest challenges (or welcomed benefits!) to farming, particularly in Virginia where our seasons are diverse. This spring got off to a volatile start, which continues to cause impacts to spring, summer, and even fall crops. March began slightly warmer than usual and caused many early season crops to begin to bud and grow earlier than expected. Soon after our warm spell, we were hit with a major frost, causing hail in many areas and temperature drops of more than 50 degrees in less than 24 hours. Some of our high tunnel growers reported temperatures of around 80 degrees in their tunnels one day, and down to 20 degrees the next. As you can imagine, these drastic changes can be devastating to produce.

Tree fruit took the biggest hit from our late frost, as many early season peaches, cherries, plums, and blackberries were just starting to grow. Luckily, several of our growers had some crops planted on higher elevations in their fields, such as on a hillside, where the temperature did not drop as drastically and the crops are continuing to thrive. However, we still expect to see reduced volume and impacts to quality to these products when they come into season in just a few weeks.

As if the drastic changes in temperature weren’t enough of a rough start to the season, then came the rain. And more rain, rain, and rain, for 30 days. The consistent wet weather brought a myriad of other challenges for farmers, including preventing them from getting new crops in the ground due to the soil being too saturated for planting. For the berries that had begun to grow at the time of the rain, like strawberries and blackberries, the risk for certain moisture-induced diseases increased. While there are organic and commercial applications available to prevent disease growth due to moisture, anything that was applied was quickly washed away by the continual rainfall.

Despite the challenges from our climate, our farmers continue to impress us with their ability to grow high-quality products and overcome the setbacks. We’ve had a beautiful and extra sweet strawberry season thus far, but the hot and summer-like weather is bringing the season to a close within the next week. But, we’re already seeing the first harvests of summer squash, which is the true mark of summer! It won’t be long before we see other summertime favorites, like peppers, tomatoes, and watermelon. So long as our summer doesn’t get too hot, we should be in store for a bountiful and delicious season.

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