WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. - When the temperature dropped overnight and brought patchy frost to parts of the region this past week, it put cash crops in danger. One of those is very sensitive to frost and a heavy frost can destroy an entire crop while it is still in the field.
The recent frost made some really noticeable changes to the color of local tobacco plants. The damage isn't tragic yet, but workers are going full speed ahead to clear the fields.
You can see it on the leaves. That slight change of color and the little edge curl that indicates a not-so-healthy plant. It is all over tobacco fields in Washington County, Virginia, but we've learned it could have been worse. "It turned it yellow here lately," tobacco worker Sandra Martinez said. "But if you don't get your tobacco in before the frost, it will totally ruin your tobacco."
Agricultural agents say the time to harvest is now. "The average date for the first killing frost in this area is October 10-15," Extension Agent Phil Blevins said. "Once you get past the middle of September, you are really in a position to where the weather could get cold enough to have a major frost."
That means get it out of the fields now or risk losing it all.
It's a call all farmers have to make and it means a lot of work.
All of the work is labor intensive but workers know if it isn't done right away, nobody gets paid. "It causes it to turn black. It just melts down and you won't have any tobacco," Martinez warned. "If you don't get it in before the frost, you won't have your tobacco."