Three Questions with an Award-Winning Farmer
Tyler Wegmeyer was recently named the Virginia Farmer of the Year. You may remember Tyler as the 2016 Young Farmer Sustainability Award winner, an honor he received in March of this year at the Bayer AgVocacy Forum. Tyler and I check in with one another occasionally on Twitter or via text—meaning that he mostly teases me about how little I actually work. So of course I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to catch up with the multi-award-winning farmer after I heard the news. See what Tyler had to say about this past spring’s strawberry season, the challenges he faced with the weather and what’s coming up next for Wegmeyer Farms (besides hopefully another trophy).
Question 1: How was your spring?
Tyler Wegmeyer: The 2016 strawberry season was our best yet. Yields were tremendous and we had more visitors to the farm than ever before. The season lasted seven weeks as opposed to our normal four or five weeks.
All of these positives were because of the cooler-than-average temps we had; however, we also had more challenges this spring than ever before because of the cooler temps. Several times during the critical bloom stage, temps got into the low twenties and even in the teens. We had to resort to burning fires by the sides of the fields and spending lots of money on additional row covers for frost protection. Night after night we had frost warnings and had to pull row covers on and then take them off the next day. The amount of labor and time was significant.
Fires burn by the sides of the strawberry fields at Wegmeyer Farms to prevent frost.
By the time we started to pick, rain continued to fall and wouldn’t stop. At one point we had 25 straight days of rain. A lot of our early berries we had to pick to make wine. Eventually, it cleared up and the sun came out and temps stayed lower and the strawberry plants started producing, and they produced record yields. It was a challenge keeping up with them at times, but because of good u-pick customer turnout and our expanding wholesale markets, we got it done.
U-pick strawberry basket at Wegmeyer Farms
Question 2: What did you find to be the most rewarding part?
Tyler Wegmeyer: We’ve never had to work as hard and deal with as many challenges as this spring but it was all worth it as we saw tremendous results. Our whole family chipped in and helped out, which made it very rewarding. Being able to be in the field with Harriet and our three boys as we worked as a team to cover up the strawberries together on a frequent basis, created memories we will not soon forget.
Fresh picked strawberries at Wegmeyer Farms
Question 3: What’s next for Wegmeyer Farms?
Tyler Wegmeyer: Right now we are busy harvesting vegetables on a daily basis for our CSA customers. We are also gearing up for the harvest of pumpkin season, which will begin at the end of August. All the pumpkins were planted starting the first week of June for our wholesale markets, and our u-pick fields were planted about the third week of June. We are also busy planning for our fall festival, building new displays and attractions for fun and educational activities for kids.
Tyler, his wife Harriet and his children Torsten, Tucker and Colden in front of their strawberry field.
Visit Wegmeyer Farms online at WegmeyerFarms.com.