Farm Flooding Foils The Season

The flood waters have carried produce from local farms downstream.

While the town, village and campus have all focused on recovering from Tropical Storm Irene, local New Paltz farms don’t even know where to begin.

As of Sept. 4, local farms in New York lost a total of 140,000 acres and about $45 million in damage, according to The New York Times.

Farms including Huguenot Street Farm, Taliaferro Farms and Springtown Sweetview Farm were all considerably hurt from the flooding, ruining their seasonal and yearly crops.

Although some farmers tried to prepare for the storm, they had no idea how immensely it would affect them.

“We thought there would be high winds, so we pulled down some of the greenhouse plastic and double tied others,” said Ron Khosla of Huguenot Street Farms. “From reading the weather information, it didn’t sound like we would have that much flooding.”

However, as the calm Saturday weather disappeared and it began to storm throughout the night, things changed for Khosla.

“Overnight, the water level in New Paltz kept rising and rising and rising. Had I known it would happen, I would have stayed up all night trying to save more things. But we didn’t know,” said Khosla. “None of our farmer friends knew and by the time we woke up on Monday we were wrecked. Tens of thousands of dollars more damage.”

Huguenot Street Farm lost everything, crop-wise.

“We’ve already started replanting, but it’s not just a huge financial blow, it’s also a psychological blow to see everything you’ve worked for destroyed,” said Khosla.

On top of the flooding, a federal guideline has been issued stipulating that crops exposed to the floodwater are contaminated.  According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, floodwater can carry chemicals, sewage and more. This makes food unfit for human consumption.

“Even little rays of hope that we had left, for example, the winter squash seemed to have survived, were smashed from us because so much disease was carried in the water that even a week later things were still dying,” said Khosla.

Luckily, Huguenot Street Farm is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm and won’t go out of business due to the flooding.

“We could never survive this without the CSA,” said Khosla. “I am much more worried about other local farms that don’t have CSA as some part of their total.”

As farmers try to recover, community members have organized the New Paltz FLOOD Aid in order to raise money for the farmers, families and first responders most affected by the flooding.  Since farms were affected in different ways, the organization will assess each farm to see where they stand. The survey includes how many acres they lost or potentially can lose, whether they have insurance, etc. FLOOD Aid will administer the money collected through the New Paltz Community Foundation.

“Some farms lost nothing, some lost everything,” said KT Tobin Flusser, who is part of the New Paltz FLOOD Aid.

FLOOD Aid will host two events in October. There will be a Kick Off Potluck event on Sunday, Oct. 2 from 4 to 9 p.m. at Water Street Market. Six bands will perform including Ratboy, SnowBear and The Love Taps. Local chefs will also prepare local food and there is a $20 suggested donation.

The all-day benefit concert will help raise money through auctions, gift certificates for local businesses and more on Sunday, Oct. 16 from 12 to 6 p.m. at Hasbrouck Park.  Musicians include The Trapps, Erik Lawrence from The Levon Helm Band, Randy Ciarlante from The Band and Alexis P. Suter.