Friday, September 16, 2011

Farms still underwater after recent rains

Marlo, the owner of Garden Gate Delivery, brings local food from farms to households in Ithaca and neighboring towns. The nature of her job means that she learns firsthand how farmers are faring.

This week, she has tough news to share.  Here's an excerpt from her weekly newsletter:

(photo from Marlo's newsletter)
It makes me want to cry every time I look at that picture.  That's Lisa Engelbert's farm store and she said that picture was taken AFTER the water receded by four feet (the sign was under water).  Lisa and her family own an organic dairy in Nichols, NY where Garden Gate gets organic meat and cheese.  Engelbert's losses will be huge and include their produce and organic grains- a devastating loss for a family farm whose livelihood is built on feeding animals organic grains at an affordable price.  Lisa said the electric was ruined in the milking parlor and will need to be redone plus the grain silo is cracking under pressure from corn that absorbed water.
For the first time I'm not thrilled to say one of our farms was in the newspaper today, but here's the Ithaca Journal article that talks about the flooding that affected the Engelbert Family Farm.
And here's a very good article that tells the flooding backstory from another farm's perspective.  The line that tells the clearest story is this one from commissioner Darrel Aubertine of NYS 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.”
Ithaca-area local foods distributor Regional Access sent out a note to customers this week stating that some downstate processors will have NO PRODUCT left this year- processing is impossible.  For Garden Gate customers this will be products like canola oil (I just got our last batch in yesterday) and Whole-in-the-Wall pesto.  Both businesses were wiped out by the floods and it is likely that they will need to move their facilities or perhaps shut down their businesses forever.
I received or came across many suggestions for where to send money to help local farms affected by the flooding, but the best suggestion I received was from Monika Roth at the Tompkins Cooperative Extension who said to send donations to the local Red Cross.  I called the Southern Tier Chapter of the American Red Cross and got this confirmed address:
Red Cross of the Southern Tier
620 East Main Street
Endicott, NY 13760
and be sure to write "disaster relief for farms" in the memo line.  Monika visited Engelberts and some other farms in Tioga County yesterday and finished her note to me simply by saying "It is heartbreaking to drive thru Owego."
Please keep Engelberts and other flood-affected downstate farms in your thoughts this week.

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