Bad weather failed to maim Va. agritourism, but some hurt

AFP Correspondent

(Nov. 17, 2015) Agritourism, a relative newcomer to the farming industry in Virginia and elsewhere, is subject to the same weather ups and downs as other farming operations, members of the industry found during the season that is winding to a close.
As with other segments of the industry, too little moisture or too much moisture are players in this one.
Martha A. Walker, Extension Specialist in Community Viability, conducted a statewide survey of people involved in the agritourism.
Walker’s survey found that for the most part the number of visitors to Virginia agritourism destinations was up and that spending remained either level or increased during the season ending with fall activities.
Of the 55 replying, 71 percent reported they had either no change or an increase in visitors for the 2015 season compared with 2014, Walker said.
Of those responding, 53 percent said the heavy rains at the end of September and into October either had no significant impact or a positive impact on the agritourism.
Another 42 percent did report a negative impact.
Jeter Farms at Bonsack, Va. saw its fall festivities shut down three of the six weekends it had planned to offer fall fun, Ned Jeter II said in a telephone interview last week.
Rains made trips through the corn maze, pumpkin picking and hayrides impossible, he said.
Jeter said that earlier in the season the farm had lost some pumpkins due to drought and family members were discussing buying pumpkins from another producer to make up the difference when they opened for the fall season.
With the heavy rain received on the farm in Botetourt County near its border with Roanoke County, he said some of their 15 acres of pumpkins rotted because of the heavy rains over several days.
They grow both pie and a jack-o-lantern pumpkin as part of a diversified farm that includes produce and beef cattle.
In Craig County at Joe’s Trees, operator Sue Bostic said they lost two full weekends and one Saturday to the rains but had two full weekends when their pumpkin-corn maze operation did well.
She said they were open on Halloween and did fairly well that day too.
Talking last week by telephone she said she has moved on to getting ready for the Christmas tree season.
Like Joe’s Trees, many farms across the state grow both pumpkins and Christmas trees as companion crops and move from one season to the next with activities that attract families to the country and a farm experience.
The story will continue to be written as the Christmas tree season gets into full swing.
Many of the state’s Christmas tree farms usually open on the day after Thanksgiving and remain open much of the time until just days before Christmas.