Weather swings lead to mixed results for local farmers

Catawba Valley Farms is making the most of heavy rain and heat streak

CATAWBA, Va. – Major weather swings lead to mixed conditions for farmers across Virginia. From several weeks of rain and flooding to the heat wave we're seeing this week, the weather is having a major impact on local crops.

Leighton Hodges, the owner and operator of Catawba Valley Farms, says each year brings a new challenge as far as weather is concerned. He says decades of farming have taught him to just go with the flow and make changes as necessary.

"Every year is different, from late frost, which will knock out stone fruit like it did this year, to extreme droughts in the summer, you just have to roll with it and plan as you go," says Hodges. "The wet weather season wreaked a little bit of havoc. Things that were planted before the rainy spell drowned out. Once it got really wet we couldn't get back in the fields to replant, so it has set us behind on our staple vegetables like squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and whatnot. They're close, but not here yet."

He says the rainy conditions have set those vegetables about two weeks behind schedule.

After late frost completely knocked out the peaches and cherries at Catawba Valley Farms this spring, Hodges turned his focus to blueberries, which started to grow extremely fast because of the rain.

Hodges says one of the biggest benefits of buying produce at a farmers market is being able talk to the farmer who grew the produce. He says explaining to customers about the produce he's selling, where it comes from and how it was grown is very important to him.

When it comes to buying local produce, Hodges says there are a few giveaways as to how fresh it actually is.

"One of the biggest things I want to show people is when you go to the farmers market, pick a tomato up," he says. "When it's pulled from the stem, it will be green in the center for three to five days, after that it's going to turn brown. So a good way to tell if it is fresh or old is to look for the green spot in the middle of the tomato."

Right now, the freshly harvested blueberries are being sold at the farmers market in Blacksburg. Once other vegetables, like tomatoes, squash and cucumbers, start coming in, Catawba Valley Farms will be selling produce at the Salem Farmers Market as well.