Corn rush before Florence

Published 10:25 pm Wednesday, September 19, 2018

As Hurricane Florence approached the East Coast last week, farmers in Suffolk prepared for the storm by safeguarding equipment, battening down the hatches and getting their corn out of the ground as fast as possible.

Like others in Virginia, North Carolina and other states in Florence’s potential path, Shelley Barlow — who farms in the Chuckatuck area — and her family needed to harvest their corn in order to save it from hurricane rain and wind. It was about time to pick it anyway, so the farmers rushed the harvest to completion.

“We only had about 65 acres, so we didn’t have the challenge that some folks did. But if you ask anybody that had corn, that’s what they were doing before the rain,” Barlow said.

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David Bosselman had the same concern at his Old Myrtle Road farm.

“We went after the corn aggressively and started picking on Wednesday before the storm even hit,” Bosselman said. After the equipment and corn were secured, all that was left to do was watch the weather forecasts. “We were just waiting it out hoping we weren’t going to get all that wind and rain.”

Fortunately, Suffolk and the rest of the Tidewater region were spared when Florence turned farther south before it made landfall in North Carolina on Friday morning, but there are no regrets among the Suffolk farmers that rushed to prepare for what turned out to be very little rain and wind.

“I’d rather do what we can to be prepared and not have any damage than to be caught off guard,” Barlow said. “We’re not frustrated by any of that.”

But the record-setting floods of Florence that are still rising in the Carolinas are causing havoc for cotton and tobacco crops. According to a Bloomberg report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report on Monday that detailed that the number of cotton fields rated in good or excellent condition fell to 48 percent as of Sunday.

Conditions also declined for corn and soybeans, and agriculture officials in the state cited damage from wind and rains to tobacco plants, according to the Bloomberg report.

“I feel bad for those people. I know that some of them were wiped out,” Bosselman said.

Thankful for Suffolk’s good fortune, Bosselman and his family are now looking forward to pulling up this season’s peanuts.

“It’s time to dig up peanuts,” he said. “We just need some good weather now.”