On Monday night, as a line of powerful thunderstorms moved across Brooklyn, something that rarely happens in these parts began to unfold. Updrafts in the storm front’s giant cumulonimbus clouds pushed massive amounts of rain thousands of feet up into the atmosphere, where the raindrops began to freeze and coagulate into marble-sized balls of ice which quickly grew heavy enough to fall back onto our streets as hail. Millions of Brooklynites gawked in disbelief as close to an inch of ice pellets coated many neighborhoods in a matter of minutes, creating a fleeting (if unsettling) wintery fantasy. For most, it was all over in a matter of minutes. But for some of our urban farmers, it was a living nightmare and it was just beginning.
BK Farmyards and the Added Value Community Farm in Red Hook suffered devastating losses, with 90% or more of their harvest-season crops destroyed, and countless hours of hard work lost. These projects will need the support of the community to recover and move forward. They’re looking for volunteers to help clean up the farms, and for donations to help recoup the revenue they were counting on from produce sales over the next six weeks.
Here are BK Farmyards and Added Value’s stories, in their own words:
Stacey Murphy and Bee Ayers of BK Farmyards write:
“Last night we watched the rain turn to hail with 2 other urban farmers. We watched amazed and delighted by wondrous things Mother Nature can do. Then as we saw the hail grow bigger and louder and continue to grow our faces turned to looks of worry. Our thoughts quickly moved to our crops, spread across Brooklyn, from Red Hook to Ditmas Park, Crown Heights and East New York. We shared our looks of fear for what we would find in the morning.
It is amazing how an hour of weather can ruin months and months of work. The crops that we have nurtured and looked forward to sharing were ripped to shreds. The hundreds of pounds of vegetables we were counting on turned into confetti and were thrown around the farm. Kristen from Added Value said it best: “it’s as if someone threw a bucket full of rocks at the lettuce and then one thousand bunnies were let loose on them”.
I walked around the farm this morning wide eyed and in a state of disbelief. We lost almost all of our crops, 95%. Every eggplant is bruised and split, the okra is broken and torn, the lettuce shredded and powdered and the greens look like Swiss cheese. We have whole beds of the farm where I couldn’t even find the vegetables that were growing the day before. How does one literally loose 200 square feet of lettuce mix? It is sad to see so much so many people helped to create and nurture destroyed.
And all this is even before thinking about the loss of income. It is not just that we lost almost everything we were going to sell this week, but we lost everything for the next 6 weeks. We lost a quarter of our entire income for the year.
One of the things that makes bk farmyards different than some urban farms is that we are dependent on the sale of our produce. We do not have large grants that pay us a salary, or angel investors that help us to pay the bills. Our operations are simple; we grow the high quality food and sell it cheaply in areas that have little access to other options. We do this while teaching 4 days a week in the classroom, running an after school and summer program, year round volunteer days, 2 CSAs, a Farmers Market, apprenticeship programs, free workshops and working with other community members to build a healthier local food system. We do this for the love of the work and our commitment to creating a food system that is just.
Unfortunately this also makes us extremely vulnerable to extreme weather events like Monday night’s. We ask for your support as we clean up the farm and figure out how to continue our work in the next few weeks. We love the support of our friends with help on the farm and kind words of encouragement.
Please consider a donation to help us continue our programs in the loss of our produce income. Donate here.”
Ian Marvy if the Added Value Red Hook Community Farm wrote:
“Things look really bad. On Sunday afternoon Edie Stone from GreenThumb, Gerard Lordahl of Grow NYC’s Open Space Greening program, and John Ameroso, one of the founding forces of urban agriculture in NYC were all on the farm remarking that it had never looked so good. That all changed Monday evening.
On Monday night as the rain turned to hail our heads and hearts turned towards our fields and the food that we grow. It’s October and our hard work has been transforming land into beautiful fields (small and large) of food to feed ourselves, our friends, and our community. However Mother Nature (and man-made climate change) brought us a severe hailstorm that wiped out 80-90% of our crops. The collards look like Swiss cheese, the chard the same, the okra are riddled with holes, the salad seems to have turned to soup and the bush beans are all but gone.
As we are growing this movement and building our farms the scale of tragic events like these become all the more apparent in terms of work lost, potential revenue gone and livelihoods damaged.
We spent yesterday beginning to pick up the pieces and assessing the damage. As friends and community members you can help and we need your support.
Come down to the Farm, help clean the fields and transplant new crops. Drop in anytime Thursday 8am to 7pm or Friday 8 – 4pm. Or show your support by coming out to our Fifth Annual Harvest Festival on Saturday.
If you can, make an On-line donation to help rebuild the farm.
We are also planning fundraisers with our partner schools and restaurants in the coming weeks. We’ll keep you posted about further developments.”
Recap: how you can help
BK Farmyards is looking for donations to help recover from the loss of over $2,000 worth of produce. Donate here.
Added Value Red Hook Community Farm is looking for volunteers today (Thursday) and tomorrow from 8am-5pm to help with cleanup.