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The impact on regional farms of flooding from Irene is beginning to emerge

Although it’ll be a matter of weeks before we get a full reading of the impact of flooding from Hurricane Irene on regional farmers (and the ancillary, though entirely less dramatic impact on local produce lovers), some data is starting to come in that begins to give shape to the nature of the disaster.

GrowNYC, the organization that operates the city’s Greenmarket program, reports today that:

  • 80% of Greenmarket farmers have been affected.
  • 10% are reporting serious losses of 80-100% of their products.
  • Losses occurring at this time of year are not replaceable because it’s too late in the season to re-plant, it’s normally the time of year with the greatest yield of produce (and revenue), and both ready-to-harvest summer and just-getting-started winter crops are lost.

To help, GrowNYC is:

  • working to secure aid for impacted farmers from state and federal government.
  • encouraging lenders and insurers to work with farmers.
  • encouraging local Greenmarket shoppers to lend their support by continuing to shop at Greenmarkets and farmers markets.
  • accepting donations through their website, all proceeds of which will go directly to affected farmers.
  • launching a message board to connect farms looking for support and volunteers with local residents willing and able to lend a hand.

Here’s the full release, sent out by Jeanne Hodesh at Greenmarkets this afternoon:

“As the flood waters begin to recede from the fields upstate, we will learn about the full extent of the damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene in the days and weeks to come. The Black Dirt region is still flooded, Sullivan County and Ulster County have seen significant damage, and there are parts of Greene County that no longer exist. We estimate that 80% of Greenmarket farmers have been impacted, with about 10% reporting severe loss—80-100% of their products. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time of year— as you know, September is when our farmers make the money they need to sustain their farm businesses. It is too late in the season to re-plant, and in addition to the great summer harvest that typically arrives in September, these farmers have lost their winter storage crops as well—beets, onions and squash—the products that sustain year-round sales.

We are working closely with the State and federal government to secure funding for damaged areas, our senators and Governor Cuomo are advocating on behalf of the agricultural sector to the federal government, and we are encouraging lenders and insurance programs to consider the impact of the storm and what they can do to help.

Markets were open at 5 a.m. the day after the storm, and we are encouraging residents to support regional farmers first and foremost by shopping. Some of the farmers you have forged strong relationships with over the years may not be back at the markets this season due to the aftermath of the storm, but we will do everything we can to ensure that they return to market in the spring of 2012. We have set up a donation page on the GrowNYC website, which you can find at www.grownyc.org/blog. We plan to have a message board up on our website by this weekend, where those seeking assistance (volunteer help, or in-kind donations) and those who are ready to volunteer can be put in touch. In the mean time, we don’t anticipate that our markets will be impacted in terms of the quality or the variety of products you have come to expect—the farmers who did not suffer serious damage have a stunning array of produce for sale from the full summer harvest. If you have any questions, please reach out to our office: 212-788-7476.

Greenmarket farmers are a resilient and strong group of individuals, who have weathered many storms prior to this one. Thank you for your commitment to regional agriculture and to all that you bring to the local food community, upstate and down.”

 

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