Farmers Given A Wintry Boost

Snowstorm Brings Much-Needed Moisture, Spares Local Structures

Posted: March 8, 2013

HARRISONBURG — While the snowstorm that pummeled the central Valley Tuesday night and Wednesday served as an irritant for many local residents and businesses, it actually may have been somewhat of a boon for the agriculture community.

In an unusual twist, the snow — which totaled as much as 20 inches in the area — doesn’t appear to have caused any barns or poultry houses to collapse, and it also brought some much-needed moisture to local farmers.

Officials representing the poultry and cattle industry and the local Virginia Cooperative Extension Service office confirm that no significant structural damage has been reported on local farms.

Rockingham County Fire Chief Jeremy Holloway also said he hasn’t heard of any significant damage in general.

“It’s surprising to me,” Holloway said. “We anticipated having some structural damage due to the heaviness of the snow and we didn’t receive any.”

In February 2010, 15 poultry houses in the Valley partially or completely collapsed, including 10 in Rockingham County, as the result of a storm in which some areas received more than 2 feet of snow. That was the most storm-related damage done to poultry houses since 2003, when a snowstorm damaged 50 buildings, Virginia Poultry Federation Hobey Bauhan reported then.

About 200 agricultural structures sustained some type of damage, from complete structure failure to minor roof damage, during the June 29 windstorm known as a derecho, local extension agent John Welsh estimated last summer.

But this week’s snowstorm has not been so harsh on the local ag community.

Eric Paulson with Bridgewater-based Virginia State Dairymen’s Association said the lack of strong winds locally that other parts of Virginia experienced may have helped.

“This time, luckily … we haven’t had any problems, which is a blessing,” Paulson said.

Extension agent Matt Yancey said a couple of factors also may have helped spare Valley barns and poultry houses.

For one, newer ag structures that have gone up in the area since previous big storms struck were likely less prone to collapse. Also, the snow began melting quickly after the storm subsided Wednesday, meaning rooftops didn’t have to hold it for as long as was the case after other large snowfalls.

Because the late-winter snowstorm came before spring planting, with mostly small grains such as rye, wheat and barley in the ground, it didn’t harm crops. In fact, it helped those grains, Yancey said.

“You typically look at winter as providing a lot of moisture in the form of snow,” he said. “This year … we haven’t had enough to really get us up above where we need to be. This snow, it has helped a lot … or at least, I’m hoping that it will have.”

He added that snow helps to insulate the ground and keep the soil warm.

“If anything, it was really a big bonus for [the crops],” Yancey said.

Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or csipos@dnronline.com



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