An online journal which chronicles the who, what, when, where, why and how
in our unique corner of the Virginia countryside.

© 2019 Middleburg Mystique



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HOT POTATO

Potatoe crop

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.

MELONS

Field watermelons

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 of Agriculture.

"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 September."

USDA FUNDING FOR 2019 FARM TO SCHOOL GRANTS

Growing Money

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.



AGRICULTURE IMORTANCE

truck cartoon

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 economy."

Farming 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.

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