Flooding concerns local farmers

Heavy rains bring threat of fungus, rot

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. - Leroy Tracey, of Cavetown, Maryland, is a farmer and co-owner of the family-owned Mountain Valley Orchard. He's worked there since he was a kid and married into the family over 40 years ago. 

"I started working here when I was about 10 years old," said Tracey. He says that his family grow a variety of fruits and vegetables, and May is prime strawberry season on the farm.

This year's strawberry crop is about two weeks behind schedule because of the unseasonably long winter. But with the recent storms the region is experience, the berries are facing another threat: flooding.

"The ideal growing season for strawberries is some moisture, but not as much as we have here now," said Tracey.

Unlike blueberries or blackberries, which grow on bushes, strawberries grow on small plants. This puts them dangerously close to the puddles left by the heavy rains. 

"All this rain here, they'll lay, some of them will lay here in the water and the plastic, and they'll get soft," said Tracey, referring to the soft strawberries are often used for pies and jams. "If we get too much moisture, they'll rot or get a mold, a gray mold in them."

Strawberry sales make up about 25 percent of Mountain Valley's annual income and the continuous storms are hurting the bottom line. Tracey estimates he'll lose about 15 percent of this year's crop, if the rain stops this week. 

But if another storm comes?

"If it keeps on [like] this, it could be a larger percentage we lose," added Tracey.

The storms aren't just damaging to Tracey's strawberries. Wind damage, fungus and diseases like Fire Blight are all results of the storms, all of which are serious threats to his apple and peach trees. He's hoping Mother Nature will let his plants dry out before sending any more rain. 

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