Rain ‘a blessing’ for farmers

This week’s stormy weather may cause headaches for commuters and athletes throughout the Shenandoah Valley, but local farmers are thankful for the much-needed rain.

Bobby Clark, an extension agent for the Virginia Cooperative Extension, said the rain is great this time of year to help grow winter and pasture crops.

“For the most park, I think it’s doing way more good than bad, because we need the rain,” he said. “Our fall pastures are going to be very short because we haven’t had too much rain in the last 30 days. This rain will help a little bit.”

He specified the rain will help feeding small grains like cover crop, rye, wheat, barley and grass.

Jerry Fields owns Jerry’s Gourmet Berries in Woodstock. He said he’s hoping for every drop of rain that’s been projected by the National Weather Service.

“All my stuff is in raised beds, so standing water doesn’t hurt them,” he said Thursday. “Only time you have a problem is if you have standing water long enough that it drowns the roots. I’m actually hoping for more rain tonight, we haven’t gotten enough all year.”

Alongside feeding some thirsty crops, the rain can give farmers a break from tending to their crops to take care of some secondary and tertiary tasks they haven’t had a chance to touch on.

Said Clark, “(Farmers) will all be either maintaining machinery, or just regroup and wait for pretty weather and take care of all the things they weren’t doing while they were out harvesting crops.”

Despite the benefit to crops, rain is more of a complicated issue for some farmers.

When it comes to baling hay, the process is ideally completed with dry hay, although wet baling is also an option. Greg Bowman, a hay baler from Maurertown, said his business needs enough balance from having enough rain to grow crops, to having enough days in a row of dry weather to bale the hay.

“You’ve got to have it (rain) to make the crops, but you also need dry weather to make hay,” he said. “So it’s kind of a double-edged sword.”

Bowman said it takes roughly three to four days of drying time after a rain to bale the hay, unless farmers choose to dry bale. Bowman said he bales about 3,000 dry rolls of hay per year, and roughly 1,500 wet rolls.

The National Weather Service has placed a flash flood warning on the greater Shenandoah area until 8 a.m. today.

“I think it’s a real blessing,” Clark said.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com.