Virginia is one of the top potato-producing states during the summer months,
with an estimated value of production of nearly 17 million dollars in
2018. According to David Hickman of Dublin Farms in Horntown, Virginia,
"Demand for Virginia red and yellow potatoes is unprecedented this year."
Virginia has benefited from positive growing conditions in contrast to
less than favorable conditions in other areas. The state also experienced
good potato-growing weather.
During the week of July 1, the Market News office of the Virginia Department
of Agriculture and Consumer Services began daily reporting on the 2019
Virginia potato crop. Fifty-pound sacks of round white potatoes started
the season at $14.75 compared to $12.75 last year; 50-pound sacks of round
red potatoes are as high as $23.75, more than double the 2018 price of
$10.75. Yellow potatoes are as high as $23.75 compared to $17.75 last
year. Harvest of russet potatoes is just getting underway. Virginia farmers
grow white potatoes for both the fresh market and for potato chips.
Virginia melon growers are optimistic that there will be plenty of refreshing
local cantaloupes and watermelons for the hot summer days ahead.
Watermelons are grown on 773 acres on 338 Virginia farms, while cantaloupes
are grown on 481 acres on 239 farms, according to the 2017 U.S. Census
"Melons are ideal for summer picnics and other meals," remarked Tony Banks,
a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.
"Melons come in a wide variety of types, sizes and flavors. They offer
a sweet refreshment to help combat heat and provide a low-calorie, nutritional
dessert or snack."
Jay Reese of Reese Farms in Halifax County grows nearly 50 acres of watermelons
and cantaloupes. In addition to supplying produce farm stands and area
wholesalers, Reese provides cantaloupes for the annual Virginia Cantaloupe
Festival, which will be held July 26. Reese reported that his melon crops
this year have been excellent in terms of juiciness and sweetness, and
he expects production to continue throughout the summer. "We planted early
crops and late melon crops as well, so we expect to produce melons into
USDA FUNDING FOR 2019 FARM TO SCHOOL GRANTS
The Department of Agriculture has announced an award of more than $9 million
in USDA Farm to School Program grants that will increase the amount of
healthy, local foods served in schools and create economic opportunities
for nearby farmers.
This year marks an all-time high of funding and projects in the program,
with grants supporting 126 selected projects across 42 states, the District
of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. These projects are expected to serve more
than 3.2 million students in over 5,400 schools.
This record-breaking year for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program was
made possible by increased funding from Congress for fiscal years 2018
and 2019, which enabled USDA to award 52 more grants than the previous
highest year of 2016 when 74 were granted. Grants range from $20,000 to
$100,000 and fund equipment purchases and experiential learning activities,
including planting school gardens, offering taste tests to children, and
organizing field trips to local farms and food producers.
Virginia's political leaders may now take a closer look at the importance
of agriculture in their congressional districts, thanks to the 2017 U.S.
Census of Agriculture. A breakdown of the number of farms and farmers
in each congressional district in the nation was released June 26.
"The census shows that agriculture is not only the largest industry in
Virginia, but it is an industry that exists in all 11 of the commonwealth's
congressional districts," explained Ben Rowe, national affairs coordinator
for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. "The census data not only shows
that the jobs, income and revenue provided by these tens of thousands
of farms are the lifeblood of rural Virginia, but also serves as a reminder
that whether you are on the Eastern Shore, in the coalfields region or
Virginia's Urban Crescent, agriculture is an important component of the
and forestry in Virginia have a total economic impact of $91 billion,
according to a 2017 study by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.