Irene swamps the fields, but it could have been worse
The storm that swept through NYC on Sunday continued right on up over the farm. Though it seems that the city got through it without too many problems, communities to the north have suffered a lot more.
At Hearty Roots, the main damage from the storm came from the heavy rains - about 9", which is basically two months worth of rain in 24 hours. Fortunately, we farm very well-drained soils, so most of our crops coped with the deluge relatively well. A few parts of the farm, lower pockets where rainwater drains from the rest of the fields, experienced the "ponding" we see in the photo of lettuce above. When you can see your vegetables' reflection, that's not a good sign! Those lettuces are probably a lost cause-- the leaves will rot in the field. But the good news is that this was one of the worst affected areas of the field, and at least you can still see the tops of the lettuces-- some other farms around here can't say as much. And we were fortunate that no streams spilled their banks into our fields; when this happens, it is advised not to harvest any crops that have been flooded, due to the possiblitly of bacterial contamination from the floodwater in the streams.
The main problems we face now are:
- the water table is so high that the roots of many plants are still waterlogged. They need air in order to get nutrients from the soil, so they won't be happy until things dry out a bit more. But with streams still running extremely high, the water table isn't likely to drop back to normal levels right away.
- there is an increased risk of plants getting diseases, like blight and root rot, when we have such wet conditions on the farm. That doesn't make them risky to eat, just less productive.
- some of our crops, such as the last of the melons and the tomatoes, are prone to splitting and cracking when they get such a huge dose of water. If you have splitting fruits in your share this week, try to use them quickly, they are still perfectly good but won't store well.
And, as I write this, we're still experiencing a power outage from a tree blown down on the power lines down the road. I'm writing thanks to a backup generator.
While we expect to lose some crops, we hope that most things will survive fairly well and that you will continue to have bountiful CSA shares for the remainder of the season.
Preparations for the storm
We spent Friday and Saturday of last week running around the farm preparing for hurricane winds. Becuase we farm rented land, we don't have much sturdy infrastructure like barns to store things in. Our main storage area is a big greenhouse with open ends-- not a great shelter from a hurricane! We actually took the plastic off of some of our tomato greenhouses, to prevent them from blowing away (see above), and stashed lots of water-sensitive items like cover crop seeds in our delivery truck and in neighboring barns.
We got off easy
On Sunday afternoon I went to check on the fields, but couldn't get there becuase the gravel road was flooded. Of course, so were the town, county, and state roads!
We were lucky. Many communities in the Catskills (right across the Hudson river from us) and up in Vermont have been truly devastated by the flooding. Some CSA's will be having a very difficult autumn-- but we hope that the Community Supported Agriculture system will play a positive role in all this, allowing farmers who might otherwise have literally gone broke to get through this fall and plant again next year, when mother nature will hopefully be more cooperative.
Thanks for the words of support many members sent us before and after the storm!
--Benjamin and the Hearty Roots Farm crew