Featured photo: Susan and Harvey Moser of Moser Manor Farms (photo by Deb Fox)
Harvey Moser isn’t complaining. If anything, he’s looking forward to a new season at the local markets.
Moser and his wife Susan own and manage Moser Manor Farm in King.
“We grow everything from artichokes to zucchini,” he says proudly from his booth at the Cobblestone Farmers Market. His sun-worn face and callused hands echo the signs of life on his farm.
Now is a busy time for local growers.
Cultivating spring growth is a risky proposition for a lot of growers because of late frosts and unpredictable weather. Despite preparations, even the most experienced growers have their difficulties as fresh seedlings, blooms and fruits can easily be “bitten back” in a night if the temperature unexpectedly dips too low.
Still, the Mosers say they had better produce sales last year, during the pandemic summer, than the year before. Increased time at home combined with grocery shortages contributed to a boom in local farmers markets, they say.
Ken Vanhoy of Rail Fence Farm in Belews Creek says something similar.
“We saw a significant increase in plant sales,” Vanhoy says. “When things get a little rough, people tend to want to do more homegrown stuff.”
Vanhoy has been gardening since he was a child but has worked full time as a grower for over a decade, a job he’s held since he was laid off during the 2008 recession.
“Even during the recession, we saw a pretty big bump,” he recalls.
Asked about the recent cold snaps, Vanhoy says that the temperatures hit fruit growers hard in this area. He says strawberries are of particular concern this time of year because they are an early spring growth. Still, while a few local growers lost a portion of their strawberry crops, NC Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler stated earlier this month that the “recent hard frost kept strawberry growers busy protecting the plants’ tender blooms, but… those efforts have been successful, and consumers will be able to find local berries.”
Moser says he is remains optimistic despite the recent frosts.
“We had grapevines getting ready to bloom and [the frost] took them out,” he says. “Hopefully it’ll come back, we don’t ever know.”
Most farmers watch the weather with the intensity of a bookie at a horse race, but the old ways still play a part. Most Farmer’s Almanacs detail weather forecasts but also include trends, and astrological signs that have informed growers for generations. According to those time-tested guides, the almost-mystical elements of the moon, anatomy based on zodiac placement and even the amount of moss on trees that year can predict a good season.
Moser’s assessment of the current state of the weather sounds equally supernatural.
“We don’t plant anything until after the 15th of May because we’ve still got ‘blackberry winter’ to go yet,” he says.
He explained that the Native Americans said that when the blackberries were in full bloom, to expect a cold spell up until mid-May.
With the shutdown restrictions easing up, and as more of the populace returns to normalcy, Moser expects that this spring season will prove to be a litmus test for the future. His infectious optimism expects another successful season of produce sales followed by a strong summer.
“What we do, we do for love,” Moser says. “Up until last year, it had to be a labor of love ‘cause there was no money. Now things are changing.”
His near sold-out booth indicates as much.
Visit Cobblestone Farmer’s Market at 1001 S. Marshall St. SW in Winston-Salem on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Rail Fence Farm is located at 4560 Rail Fence Rd. in Belews Creek.