A Challenging Summer for Virginia's Farmers

Sep 7, 2020

It’s been a difficult summer for many of Virginia’s farmers.  There was too much rain for some, and the pandemic made marketing their products more difficult.

This year's corn crop was poor or very poor for nearly 40% of Virginia farmers.
Credit USDA

The first part of the summer was dry in central Virginia. Tropical Storm Isaias brought heavy rains in early August, but it was too late for many corn farmers. Thirty-eight percent say their crop was poor or very poor.

At Virginia’s Department of Agriculture, spokesman Michael Wallace says the eastern part of the state saw steady rain through the growing season -- too much of a good thing. 

“If you would ask a farmer if they prefer to have a wet year compared to a dry year or a drought, they would always pick the dry year, and that’s because too much water can really cause a problem for crops.  It can cause a fungus. It washes pesticides off the crops.”

Wet weather may also detract from the quality of fruit grown in Virginia.

"A lot of rain is not good for grapes, apples and other types of fruit crops.  The problem is that the rain reduces the amount of sweetness in the fruit," Wallace explains.  

Vegetables, hay and pumpkins, on the other hand, fared well, but during the pandemic farmers struggled to find new markets for their crops.

“A lot of farmers who had agreements with restaurants as well as schools, they were not able to move those food items, because businesses had been closed due to the pandemic,” Wallace says.

One novel approach to marketing for makers of whiskey – virtual tastings in which bottles are shipped to prospective buyers, and the producers make their pitch on Zoom.