Local farmers deal with weather-related setbacks

By Katie Demeria

WINCHESTER — This year’s harsh winter hurt several crops for many farmers in the area, but some are saying it was actually a normal season that happened to follow several mild winters.

Harmon Brumback of Woodbine Farms said his crops saw some cold damage in the winter, which is why he has not been able to contribute to local gleaning efforts with Betty Heishman, district gleaning coordinator for the Society of St. Andrew. Produce gleaned goes to area food pantrys and food banks.

“It was more normal than people are used to,” Brumback said of this year’s winter. “Years ago, we had colder winters and wetter springs.”

Usually, Brumback’s biggest contribution is peaches. He said he has given several hundred bushels of peaches in the past 10 years.

In other years with more mild winters, he said he is able to contribute anything the farm is overrun with.

“Anything that we don’t have a market for and feel can help [Heishman],” Brumback said. “We try to contribute, and we have several neighbors around here who do the same.”

Many farmers said the winter had a significant impact on their crops, such as Bill Cline of Cline Farms. Cline will only be able to pick about a third of his peach crop.

“Welcome to the world of agriculture,” he said. “It’s the biggest gamble there ever was.”

But Cline has had other weather-related issues this year. His farm, which is located in Frederick County, has been missing all the rain that has been through the area.

His sweet corn crop, which he usually contributes to Heishman’s gleaning efforts, along with peaches, has suffered from the dry season. Right now, the corn is not even over 4 feet tall.

In the last five or six years in which he has given to Heishman, Cline said he has contributed several thousand pounds of corn.

“I’m very fortunate to have what I have, and I know a whole lot of people haven’t got nothing,” Cline said.

Not only was the winter harmful to the produce, but the cold, wet spring had an impact on many fruits as well.

According to John Marker of Marker Miller Orchards, the plums have not done very well so far either.

“The cold weather hurt those,” Marker said. “The winter and the spring.”

Marker was able to give apples from the farm’s storage to Heishman in an attempt to make up the difference from a lack of regular season produce.

But he has also been able to contribute his green bean field, which has done very well.

“There are some beautiful beans on it yet,” he said.

Marker agreed that this year’s winter was far more normal than what Virginia farmers are used to, which was why it felt so harsh.

“Maybe we’re getting back on a trend toward more normal winters,” he said. “But like I said to someone this morning, one year a trend does not make. We’ll see what next year brings.”

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com