eKonomics News Team
Wegmeyer Farms | Hamilton, VA
The eKonomics Farmer Profile Series provides perspectives from farmers across North America, encouraging a peer-to-peer dialogue on all aspects of 4R nutrient stewardship. Our goal is to help to support farmers everywhere in ensuring and sustaining plentiful yields to feed the world’s growing population for generations to come.
Name: Harriet Wegmeyer
Name of farm: Wegmeyer Farms
Farm location: Hamilton, VA
Key crops on your farm: Strawberries and pumpkins, but we also grow raspberries, blackberries, corn and soybeans
A bit about your farm’s history: My husband, Tyler, and I began our farm with just two acres of pumpkins in 2002 and have since expanded to two farms with more than 200 acres of farmed land. We run a diversified operation that includes a vibrant u-pick operation, large wholesale pumpkin segment, an agri-tourism partnership and commodity acreage.
Years in business: 12
What’s the best part of being a farmer, in your experience?
The best part of being a farmer is loving what I do and striving to grow quality produce for our family, friends and customers. As a u-pick operation, we have the opportunity to talk to every family that comes to our farm and show them how we grow our crops. Farming appears to be simple, but in reality it requires so much knowledge about a wide variety of subjects. It’s challenging and rewarding on a daily basis, and never boring.
Tell us how correct fertilizer usage has positively impacted your business? Have you seen a correlation between fertilizer usage and your bottom line?
Fertilizer is critically important to the quality and yield of our produce. Without fertilizer, the plants would not have the necessary nutrients to produce the best quality and yield. Ultimately, that is what we are looking for – the combination of high quality produce and maximum yield, and fertilizer is a key player for this outcome.
What is your primary source of information for making decisions related to fertilizer use?
We take soil tests on each field prior to planting to determine the current nutrient levels. From there, we work with our local retailer to determine the necessary application of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other micronutrients. We follow best management practices and the 4R Stewardship framework of applying the right fertilizer source at the right time, right rate and right place. We are stewards of the land and are doing the best we can to produce a high quality crop, while protecting the environment.
Please share with us your fertilizer applications process.
Providing nutrients to our crops requires broadcast spreading of pellet fertilizer prior to planting, as well as fertigation throughout the growing season. Fertigation is the process by which the water soluble fertilizer is combined with water and delivered to the plant roots through a drip irrigation line.
Do you have plans to expand your business?
Farming is a constantly evolving business, so I am sure it will change in the future. With three young sons, our long-term plan includes eventually expanding the acreage of both strawberries and pumpkins.
What about your farm are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the efficient farming practices and quality of our crops. That’s why we enjoy talking to all our customers that come to the farm and showing them how crops are grown. For example, we spend time during strawberry season talking about drip irrigation and soil nutrients, and time during the fall explaining the importance of honey bees (pollinators) and disease pressures.
What is the most important lesson you have learned as a farmer?
As an individual, I can’t control everything e.g., the weather. I must spend my time minimizing risk in all areas and control only what is possible. Smart and consistent fertilizer practices, help me to do this.
What advice would you give to a new farmer?
Be innovative and think outside the box, but use your resources such as the older generation of farmers, retailers and Cooperative Extension professionals. Farmers are needed in communities across the country – farmers that use a wide variety of skills including agronomy, meteorology, customer service and mechanics to produce crops. With the world population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, food production is critical to not only health, but stability around the globe.
What will your farm be like in ten years?
This is a tough question, but I hope we will still be producing high-quality strawberries and pumpkins with a large wholesale and u-pick operation for each season. I imagine technology, as it relates to seeds, fertilizers and crop protection tools, will continue to increase our efficiencies and will play a large role in our farm’s future.