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Local sweet corn forecast: Late but good

va farm bureauAn unusually wet spring has put many Virginia sweet corn growers behind their usual schedule, but most expect to have the tasty treat in time for July Fourth celebrations.

“The crop is looking wonderful right now outside my window,” said Jen Vaughan of Vaughan Farms Produce in Virginia Beach. She said her husband, Robbie, “is telling me in about two more weeks it will be ready to harvest.”

Virginia has seen a cool, wet spring, Vaughan noted, “but even though that’s the case, we are still picking strawberries. The corn is just a little later than normal, mostly because we planted a shorter-season variety to help us catch up. We even just planted some this weekend, so we should have some until the end of August.”

Don Reese, co-owner of Reese’s Farm Fresh Market in Halifax County, said he would have “a little bit to pick” this weekend. “Other than being about a week later than usual, it’s looking pretty good.

“Last year we picked corn about the 10th or 11th of June, but that was about the earliest we picked it,” Reese said. “Most years the 15th to the 20th of June is when we start picking corn. We’re not nearly as late as the cantaloupe is. Cantaloupes are going to be after the Fourth of July, probably 10 days later than usual.”

Richard Goode, owner of Skinquarter Farmers’ Market in Chesterfield County, said recent rains are making it challenging to keep fields weeded. Nevertheless, “the corn looks good, a little later than usual thanks to the cool weather in April and May,” he said “I’m going to have corn by the last week of June.”

Some parts of Virginia have received as much as 5 inches of rainfall beyond normal since the beginning of the year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and topsoil moisture levels are well above normal. But growing conditions are rarely perfect for farmers, said David Coleman, grain marketing manager for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

“Like all corn crops, it can be hit or miss for many sweet corn growers. Some corn growers are planting their crop for the third time. The first two didn’t make it due to too much rain this spring,” Coleman said.

Consumers may be ready for warm weather to arrive, Reese said, but farmers are even more ready.

“It’s been a difficult spring. The strawberry crop was late and short, and it was such a cold, wet spring that our bedding crop sales were off from most years,” he said. “When you lose that first week of picking because the crop is late, you never really get that back.”

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