Flood Damage Puts Farms at Risk

Part of eating locally is being aware of the impact weather events such as Irene can have on our farming community. Many of our local farmers have been spending sleepless nights anxiously worrying about their crops, their fields, and the wind effects on their high tunnels and greenhouses. Fortunately, it appears Seacoast farms have weathered the storm relatively unscathed. The same cannot be said of our neighbors in Vermont, where they’ve suffered widespread catastrophic damage.

From the scattered reports available, the destruction of flooding on Vermont farms is overwhelming —  loss of carefully tended crops and cared for livestock, erosion of fertile soil conscientiously built up through the years, damage to sheltering farm buildings and valuable equipment. To make matters worse, crops that may seem salvageable are now unsaleable according to the UVM Extension for Sustainable Agriculture: “As painful as it may be to do, all crops with edible portions that have come in contact with flood waters should be destroyed or discarded.” Even if a farm were to recover, flooded fields are condemned from planting food for human consumption for 60 days. This is the time when season extension crops should be going in. Imagine our Winter Farmers’ Market without any salad, cooking greens, or other fall planted crops. As one Vermont farmer stated, “Thus, we are unable to sow our high tunnels to late fall/winter greens (rendering them economically useless to us for the next 7 months).” And for organic growers, soils contaminated by flood waters carrying residues of prohibited substances may threaten certification for years to come.

When we choose to eat locally, we share in the bounty when the season goes well, but it also means sharing the impact when it doesn’t. Now, in what should be the peak of the growing season, the forthcoming losses to our regional farming community are especially heartbreaking. Help in any way you can, for farmers in need here and elsewhere.

The following from the Mad River Valley Localvore Project in Vermont offers flood information for consumers and farmers:

For Consumers

Farmers have had SUBSTANTIAL losses due to flooding. We fear the losses could put some farms out of business. At the peak of the season when the BIG MONEY crops are just coming in, much of the produce that farmers have been nurturing since the spring is either destroyed or contaminated and therefore unsalable.

How You Can Help Farmers

1.  Offer your service to help farmers clean their fields and barns.

Here is a list of farmers in the Mad River Valley. There is contact info for most. If there isn’t contact info, use our map to locate the farm and go there to offer your services.

2.  Buy whatever the farms have available for sale.  Pay them more than what they are asking.

The money that you give farmers now is likely the money that they will have to live on until they have salable crops in the future. Many farms have not only lost crops this year, but they have also lost valuable land and soil that will make it difficult for them recover fully next year or possibly even in the next several years.

If you are a CSA member, don’t expect to receive any more food for this year. Don’t ask for a refund from your CSA farmer. The idea of a CSA is that shareholders share in both the bounty and losses with the farmer. If you have financial need and depend on the CSA, please contact the Mad River Valley Localvore Project [[email protected]] — we may be able to provide you with a partial refund.

3.  Make a financial donation to the Mad River Valley Community Fund.

The Mad River Valley Community Fund has reopened their Flood Relief fund that was initially established after the 1998 flood. They is set up to receive your tax deductible donations either by check or via paypal.

Tax deductible contributions via Paypal can be made at http://mrvcommunityfund.org or mailed to POB 353, Waitsfield, VT 05673. The Mad River Valley Community is a 501c3 that has been serving the Mad River Valley since 1989 and distributed over $100,000 in flood relief after the 1998 Warren Flood.

4.  Call congressional representatives and ask for grant money (not low interest loans) to help out the farmers.

For Farmers

1.  Financial Assistance May Be Available.

Here is a press release from the VT Agency of Agriculture about what you need to do to apply for federal assistance.

2.  Important Information About Crops Affected By Flooding.

Here is information from Vern Grubinger of the UVM Extension Center for Sustainable Agriculture about Food Safety Advice regarding Flooded Crops.

For more information: www.VermontLocalvore.org; additional updates may be found on Facebook.

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