ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Winter for most of us means bundling up to stay warm, or shoveling snow, or slowing down on the roads because of ice.
Sure, it is a nuisance, but it is not like our livelihoods depend on having to battle through the winter elements every hour of every day.
However, that is what winter means to farmers.
They can not shut down. They can not stay inside.
Instead, winter is something to be endured, mastered, and prepared for, and those preparations happen months in advance.
“We’re looking at grasses for March and April, right now,” said Chapel Creek Farms co-owner Johnny Divers.
While we deal with winter in the present, Divers says farmers have to look ahead to plan for contingencies, and to pivot if they have to.
“We usually start planning for wintertime around August,” Divers said. “We usually start checking pastures, seeing what they’re looking like, top dressing with nitrogen on some of them. We start stockpiling pastures because our main goal is to graze cattle 300 days out of the year.”
Having enough of what is needed to operate in advance is more important now than ever before. That is because of inflation. Prices for necessities can fluctuate in a short period of time.
“All of those costs are higher,” said Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent Scott Baker. “They are higher than they have been and that can affect the bottom line.”
Another sector of Virginia agriculture involves aquaculture. A variety of seafood is farmed in Virginia in the winter.
“The demand is more in the winter for oysters,” said Capt. Chris Ludford of Pleasure House Oysters.
Ludford farms oysters on a stretch of the Lynnhaven River in Virginia Beach. Oyster farming means getting into the water in the winter. In addition to routine harvests, young oysters have to be tended.
“We have our next year’s crop, babies that are about an inch, inch and a half long, right now, so they’re half way to three and they’ll stop growing when the water gets below 50 degrees,” Ludford said. “So, what we do is we want to get a layer of fouling on them. We don’t clean them the last time, we want them to have a sweater, kind of a coat on them. That way, when the water gets cold or they’re exposed to air, they have some insulation.”
Keeping America fed is a big job. Farmers will tell you it’s a 24/7/365 proposition, and that dealing with the winter is just a fact of life to getting the job done.