Cleaning Up After Irene (and Lee)

Taliaferro Farm by Roy Gumpel, Chronogram

Chronogram Magazine is a fascinating magazine. Its mission is to report on the arts, culture and spirit of the many upstate New York counties abutting the mighty Hudson River, namely Ulster, Dutchess, Greene, Columbia, Orange and Putnam counties.

It also champions the farmers of the Hudson Valley, who cultivate the the rich and fertile soil formed by glaciers aeons ago.

While some Valley residents grumbled about sitting in the dark without electricity or water for a couple of days in late August, it was the farmers who truly suffered the wrath of Hurricane Irene (and later, Lee’s’) wrath.

The waters here have now receded to their former levels but the farmers are still suffering. The fruits and vegetables they grew and whispered to and nurtured from tiny seeds have drowned. Their once fertile fields have fallen silent and there are few outward signs of life.

To put this in stark terms, and to quote Brian K. Mahoney, editor of  Chronogram:

“Ulster County’s devastation was on par with a one-hundred-year meteorological event…Three thousand acres of vegetables were ruined in Ulster County alone. Taliaferro Farms in New Paltz lost 80 percent of its crop. At RSK Farm in Prattsville–the true ground zero of the flooding damage–not only was there total crop loss, but “Potato Bob” Kiley lost all his topsoil as well. The Schoharie Creek rose and swept it all away, leaving only the bedrock underneath.

For those of us who care about farms, the agricultural apocalypse visited upon the Hudson Valley and Catskills is a call to arms. Farms are not just a scenic addition to the landscape but an integral part of our communities–primarily as sources of locally grown food whose provenance we can be sure of, but also as a robust sector of economic activity…”

I have met some of these farmers in the many local farmers markets I visit from spring to late fall. I’ve munched their juicy apples and savored their baby greens, just-dug potatoes and newly harvested tomatoes and berries.

Simply because Irene has left, we still need to chip in,  clean up after and help the farmers who have fed us with their bounty. I urge you to visit Chronogram‘s Farm Aid page, to see how you can help the farmers buy the seed and soil and move on from this meteorological event.

This is the time to value the hard work and dedication of  farmers everywhere and contribute to co-ops wherever we live.