Ed. — This story originally ran in the Sept. 6 print edition.
THE INDEPENDENT NEWS
VIRGINIA BEACH — Over the Labor Day Weekend, well before Hurricane Dorian neared, farmer H.M. Dudley and his son, Ryan Dudley, harvested field corn near the intersection of Princess Anne and Old Pungo Ferry roads.
Their family has been farming in southern Virginia beach for more than 150 years, and they grow corn, wheat and soybeans. With the possibility of high winds, rain and flooding, they decided to harvest at least some of their field corn before the rough weather hit.
It was early for harvest. Unlike the sweet, juicy corn sold at roadside stands in the heart of summer, field corn dries in the field and usually is harvested around September. Harvesting early meant risking the corn might have too much moisture, which can hurt the price, but to ignore a storm is to risk a damaged crop. “Any time before Labor Day is early,” H.M. Dudley said.
“Just picking the corn,” Ryan Dudley, who ran the combine, said after his father had delivered a load of corn to the granary. “Checking the yield and the moisture.”
It was still a little moist, and he said he hoped to wait until the weather got closer to the area, giving a better idea of its possible impact, before harvesting more.
H.M. Dudley has been farming for five decades. Ryan Dudley, 25, has been running a combine since he was a boy and farming “officially” for two years. He holds a mechanical engineering degree. He prefers farming.
Over the next few days, a number of local farmers harvested in fields in southern Virginia Beach, gambling that bringing in corn to the granary a bit early was better than potentially losing the crop to bad weather.
A KEY CROP
Last year, agriculture had an estimated $131.1 million economic impact in Virginia Beach, according to numbers prepared by the Virginia Cooperative Extension in coordination with the Virginia Beach Department of Agriculture. And field corn was planted on more than 6,500 acres, generating a gross income of more than $5.2 million.
Field corn is different than the sweet corn enjoyed on dining tables during summer months. Field corn, which is dried in the field before harvest, is used in a variety of ways, such as for animal feed. According to the cooperative extension, corn is grown on about 500,000 acres in the commonwealth each year, generating more than $350 million in gross revenue.
Field corn, along with soybeans and wheat, is one of the three major agronomic crops in Virginia Beach.
In the numbers below, the extension notes that wheat acres usually are double-cropped to soybeans. “Income” reflects gross income.
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