by Joanna Shaw Flamm
While Irene may have left New York City with a no more than few uprooted trees, the real story of this storm has become the flooding and destruction across upstate New York and the rest of New England. Already by Monday there were reports of Newton Farm in the Catskills being evacuated by the National Guard, and the lead story in the New York Times today is about the extensive damage to farms throughout the New York flood plains.
From the Times:
“‘Clearly, it’s not good,’ said Darrel J. Aubertine, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets. ‘I’ve been involved in agriculture my entire life, and there have been times when the weather has wreaked havoc on livestock and farms, but I don’t think I have ever seen anything on this scale here in New York.’
“Representatives of farmers’ markets in New York City said that shoppers would feel the effects throughout the fall. ‘There will be farmers they’ve known for years who might not be bringing product,’ said Michael Hurwitz, director of the greenmarket program at GrowNYC, a nonprofit group.”
Reports of the damage have started to filter in from Greenmarket farmers themselves, and for many the news is not good.
Wilklow Orchards, a mainstay at several Brooklyn Greenmarkets reports:
“So we had a lot of damage from Irene. We lost our whole 9 acres of tomatoes, heirlooms and all. Luckily we picked really heavy the day before it hit, so we will have tomatoes his weekend. This will be the end off our heirlooms.”
Much of Rogowski Farms, a pioneer organic farm in the black dirt region of New York and longtime participant in the Greenmarket program, is largely underwater. They report:
“We harvested all the tomatoes that were on the vines so we have crates and crates of them in various stages of ripeness. The ones that are under water will most likely not survive the flood waters.”
Rogowski has added ‘before and after’ photos to their Facebook page.
Many, many other farms have been heavily impacted. In an effort to support the farms that have helped the NYC Greenmarket program thrive for so many years, GrowNYC is asking for donations. 100% of all donations will directly support Greenmarket farmers impacted by Hurricane Irene–just make sure to mark “Hurricane Relief” in the dedication box.
In a slightly less direct way, GrowNYC is also suggesting that pledging to eat local for the month of September would be a great way to continue to support New York farmers. You can find more information the NY Locavore challenge here.
The chilling thing here is that this story is really just developing now. We won’t have a grasp of the full impact for weeks. But it’s clear that our regional farmers are going to need our support long after the lights are back on. So get out to your Greenmarkets this weekend, buy what you can, and donate.