Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

Spring has clearly Sprung!

By Doug Fabbioli

Spring has clearly Sprung!

I turned around the other day and Mother Nature had caught me napping. Now, I know that we had a very mild winter, and my crew was able to keep up with most of the winter pruning, but things are really greening up now! For us on the farm, the main work is on the early crops. The hops need attention by trimming the heads of the plants and cutting off any runners that will spread out the plant. For the asparagus, it’s clearing out the growth from last year, doing a light tilling to knock back the winter weeds and the mulch to keep the spring weeds from getting a strong foothold. For the raspberries, it’s those weeds again. Compost is always good to add and then incorporate when tilling in the soil along the plants.

The sap in the grapevines is running a bit. Bud break usually happens a couple of weeks after the Cherry Blossoms in DC so I have a rough way to measure the critical timeframe. At this point, it looks like bud break will be in the 2nd week of April but our frost threat is not over until Mother’s Day. So…we have about a month where our potential crop is exposed and a late season frost could destroy it for the vintage. We know that some varietals may not have broken buds and some sites are better than others, so not all the grapes would be hurt. On our farm, we have our frost protection system which will help us on the cold nights that could cause a major crop loss. My gut feeling is that we will stay warm and not have an issue this season. I hope my gut is right!

The rest of our spring preparedness includes mulching, spreading compost, tree trimming and cleaning up the grounds. Also we will be expanding our vegetable gardens. Our efforts with The New Ag School is teaching our youth the skills of agriculture – processing crops, hospitality and leadership. There is no better time to teach these young folks how to be productive and make a living off the land.

Our expanded vegetable garden is one of the proving grounds for these folks. We have been able to get our program into a few of our local high schools and are getting traction where it is needed most. The trick has been getting the other farmers involved in mentoring these folks. The ones that have taken on this mission, have been enthusiastic and successful at helping the next generation find their passion and a bit of work.

Getting produce off the land is a practice almost as old as mankind itself. Gardening, horticulture, farming; these cannot be repacked with technology, just enhanced. It is great to be a part of such a basic and essential industry!

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