Cabbage still vital in Va.’s Carroll Co.

AFP Correspondent

HILLSVILLE, Va. (Oct. 20, 2015) — Cabbage has long been a staple on the vegetable farms in Virginia’s Carroll County atop the Blue Ridge. J. C. Banks, owner of Snake Creek Farms, LLC, said the area’s unique climate is key to cabbage’s long reign as an important Carroll County crop to the climate here. The soil, the elevation and the temperatures all play a part in its success.
In earlier days, he said around 2,500 acres of cabbage were grown in the county by more than 20 farmers.
Now there are four or five farmers growing it on 450 acres.
This does not mean the county is out of the spotlight for this popular vegetable. It is known for having the highest yield per acre of cabbage of any place in the world. Andy Straw, Virginia Tech Extension specialist, pointed this out during a hayride tour of the Gladesboro community recently.
“It’s nothing the farmers do,” Banks said. “It’s the climate.”
He said they are able to get a lot of tonnage per acre and that they had a decent crop this year, before the rains came.
Banks said the recent rains in the Carolinas and here have impacted the 150 acres of cabbage he has in production this fall. His workers had to wait about been able to get into the fields because the ground was too wet.
Banks said his farm got a good rain but nothing like the heavy rains in nearby Patrick County. There were reports of as much as 24 inches at Mabry Mill on the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway, officials said. Banks welcomed the rain his area got as he had been irrigating his crops because of abnormally dry weather here.
The other parts of the September storm and the second that hit the Carolinas Oct. 3-5 caused his market to go soft, he said as many of his farm’s customers are in the areas that have been devastated by record rains and flooding. He said they were just trying to find a place to live and not thinking about buying cabbage.
Banks said his family has been growing cabbage here since the turn of the 19th Century and plans to continue. His cousins, Larry Joe and Charlie Ray Banks also grow it on their nearby farm, Banks Farm, Inc.
It is also a local custom for many families in nearby counties to go to Carroll County in the fall to buy winter’s supply of cabbage to store at home.
Straw noted the Banks family has done one thing other growers do not do.
With a custom built planter, they plant three rows at a time, rather than the traditional two of most growers. Banks said that three-row planters are not available on the market so they built their own. This enables them to plant more cabbage in less time.
Banks said he has a diversified farm with several different crops. The diversity is his insurance, he said since many of his crops do not qualify for insurance or no-insurance programs, he grows different crops. His reason is that if one crop fails some of the others will probably be successful.
Banks grows collards, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, pumpkins and sweet corn. He also has a spring calving cow/calf beef cattle herd.
He said this kind of diversification is not unusual here. Most of the growers have similar approaches to production on their farms.
Snake Creek Farms has a diversified list of customers who pick up their orders on the farm. If not, Banks hires the trucking done. He said his nephew has a trucking business and it is often easier to just get him to do the hauling.
He said he is hopeful the market for cabbage will as his typical sales areas recover from the devastating rains of past weeks.