Upstate Farms in Schoharie and Mohawk Valleys Devastated by Irene [Updated]


View from Vroman’s Nose of the Schoharie Creek south of Middleburgh, New York, including fruit, vegetable, and dairy farms underwater. The line of small trees near the opposite shore marks the creek’s usual path. (Photo courtesy Amy Colyer Fogerty; click to enlarge.)

After seeing aerial pictures of massive destruction in the northwest Catskills, including many farms totally underwater along Schoharie Creek — where Fork in the Road picks berries every summer to make jam — I decided to check in on the prospective state of the city’s Greenmarkets, post-Irene, to answer the question, Did massive crop destruction occur in the storm’s wake?

The answer, as demonstrated by a Catskill farmer’s comment to an earlier version of this post, is an emphatic “yes.”

According to Ken Jaffe of Slope Farms in Meredith, New York: “There is widespread damage to the best cropland along river valleys in the Catskills and Hudson Valley, the Schoharie being the largest, most productive, and most impacted. Transportation is a under lockdown in most Catskill counties, and will be slowed indefinitely by numerous bridges that have been washed out, and road(s) that are literally gone. There are major losses to farmers who are literally underwater, and often under evacuation.”

Kat Kinsman (@kittenwithawhip) of the website Eatocracy has compiled Web and Twitter accounts , published on the CNN website, on the plight of upstate communities that have suffered extensive flooding. It’s easy to see that many farms have been irreversibly damaged, with crops destroyed and topsoil washed away.

While much of the damage that has occurred is not yet obvious in the Greenmarkets, we are likely to be missing a key portion of these markets for months, if not years. In this context, the early assessments of the impact on Greenmarkets seems overly optimistic.

Text of the earlier post:

I got in touch with Liz Carollo, a Greenmarket publicist, and she told me, “We’re currently doing a damage assessment. Yes, there were farmers missing from the market this morning, but we don’t know the cause. Highways are flooded between here and there, and some farmers may have stayed home to fix damage — say, to stake up tomatoes again, even though the crops may still be OK.” As part of the damage assessment, the Greenmarket administration has sent out emails and is making phone calls, though, as Carollo noted, “we know that many farmers don’t have electricity back on yet.”

The effects of the storm were much worse upstate and in parts of New England than they were here. In Vermont, the storm has been called the worst since 1927, and there have been Twitter reports of cars floating down the main street of Bennington, Vermont.

At today’s Union Square market, I talked to David Hughes, the affable guy who sits in the little green manager’s tent. He reported that the usual number of vendors was 33, but today there were 27 — but several of those were Saturday market participants who called and asked if they could come today, since they’d missed their regular market. A quick tally indicated that 11 farmers had not shown up today. “But it could be because the roads were flooded, or because they had no power or phone and couldn’t call in. Still, things don’t look too bad.”

There were notable gaps in the Union Square Greenmarket today.

The real damage inflicted by the storm won’t be obvious for a few weeks at Race Farm.

Hughes went on: “Heck, we didn’t even know if we were going to have a farmers’ market today until 6 p.m. on Sunday. Con Ed was using the whole square as a staging area for their trucks. We had to call the farmers and tell them we were on for today.”

Ed Huff, of Central Valley Farm in Asbury, New Jersey, looked exhausted as he stood behind his display of beautiful yellow, red, and green heirloom tomatoes, which had been reduced to $2.75 per pound. “We were up all night staking up the plants,” he said of Saturday. “The wind was more a problem than rain.”

Ryan Race of Race Farm in Blairstown, New Jersey, had a glummer assessment. He noted that his corn had been flattened, but “some of those stalks may straighten up again, and the peppers might, too.” What really worried him were the winter squashes, including pumpkins. “Those are lying in water, which makes them prone to fungus and rot. We won’t know the real damage for a few weeks.”

Enjoying an alfresco meal of heirloom tomatoes and melon in one of the gaps left by missing vendors at Union Square.