Farmers busy as spring is around the corner

HARRISONRBURG, Va. (WHSV) — The growing season is here and farmers are wasting no time taking advantage of this dry weather by either planting the colder weather crops that can still stand the cold nights or preparing the fields for the warmer weather crops that are a few months away.

Sunshine and dry weather is just what vegetable farmers need right now, according to Calvin Nolt, a partner at Woods Edge Farm in Rockingham County.

"I'd love a little shower to come through this evening, if it don't I might have to get out the sprinklers," Nolt said on Friday afternoon.

Farmers were certainly not wishing for more rain last year. While this year has been wet so far, he says this dry week has been helpful. He's busy planting cool weather crops like lettuce, kale, carrots, beets and peas, and he's covering them with crop cover to help them grow.

"It just helps keep them a little warmer day and night, it will add a couple degrees and help hold the soil warmth in and it helps hold moisture in too so the seeds actually sprout better. I don't have to worry about watering as much," said Nolt.

This time of year does not come without challenges. There are still cold nights where water lines can freeze, crops can be damaged if planted too early and the weather is extremely variable making it hard to work consistently.

Calvin said he hopes this year will not be as challenging as the last, because of all the rain.

"Right here behind us, this garden had creeks going through it a couple times last year, and once this spring already. And we're talking six inch deep water flowing through it ten feet wide," said Nolt.

He said there is extra work to be done in the spring, like covering crops to hold in moisture and heat to help them grow.

"Seeds that are not covered you can't see them sprouting at all, the stuff that is covered you can see it poking through the ground a quarter, half inch," Nolt said.

He said he's also running out of hay for his livestock, which is more expensive in the spring as demand goes up because other farmers have the same problem.

"I'm really hoping the sun comes out and lets the grass grow. If it doesn't I'm going to have to buy a bunch more hay bales, and that adds up a lot of extra cost this time of year when we're really tight," Nolt said.

According to Nolt, the biggest challenge in the spring: beating the weather.

"You might have a week where it's kind of nasty and you're just doing more prep stuff, and then all the sudden there's a nice week like the last couple of days, and I wish I could get three weeks of work done in one week," he said.