Spring weather causes tough season for Virginia Beach strawberry growers

The owners of Cullipher Farm Market said recent rains and abnormally hot temperatures are causing problems with crops and visitors.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Hampton Roads is bracing for another possible round of wet weather on Friday, and for some strawberry farms, the rain, along with high and falling temperatures, is causing issues.

“It was a roller coaster. These temperature swings and all…plants feel it,” said Jeb Cullipher, co-owner of Cullipher Farm Market.

Agriculture is a science and many variables go into producing the right crop.

For as long as he can remember, Cullipher has worked to master the science of strawberries, but some things are out of his control, mainly the weather.

“Really the back and forth, the temperature swings were the biggest thing for us besides the rain,” he said.

He said recent rains and abnormally hot temperatures made the circumstances a bit tricky for Cullipher Farm Market.

“Sugar and water are not a good combination,” he said.

It’s strawberry picking season right now, and Cullipher said constant rainfall isn’t good for the harvest. He said the combination of sugar and moisture creates a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria, and they must lay plenty of fruit.

“We have to save the fruit that has turned due to this wet weather,” he said. “We need to get that out of the plants.”

But wet weather isn’t just bad for crops, Cullipher said, it affects customer traffic.

Although Cullipher wouldn’t call the recent rain “excessive,” it’s when it rains that counts. Rain often falls on peak working days, so they see fewer visitors to the farm than normal.

“At the end of the day, this fruit has to go somewhere and if nobody wants to come out, you can’t take advantage of the weather,” he said.

Cullipher said he expects strawberry picking season to last about three more weeks. They hope they will have a good stretch of time during this time, even though they know it is out of their control.

“Seeing sunshine on the forecast is definitely a good feeling,” he said.

To combat the ups and downs of the season, Cullipher said they have started picking their own strawberries to sell for pickup orders.

They hope things will be better for the next blueberry picking season, which begins this weekend.