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Hurricane Irene and the Impact on Garden of Eve Farm

by Farmer Chris

After a very stressful week of anticipation, hurricane Irene arrived on Sunday morning.  Thankfully downgraded from early forecasts of 100 mile an hour winds, she was still a force to be reckoned with. Earlier in the week, it had become clear that we were going to be in the path of the storm, so we took action to protect buildings, crops and animals.  Animals were the easiest, fortunately their run-in shelters were strong wood buildings where they could easily take shelter. Our flock of lambs actually chose to spend much of the hurricane grazing outside on the grass – impervious to the winds and driving rain! We moved the chicken trailers to a area where the wind was broken by surrounding forest,  but far away enough from the trees so that they couldn’t be hit by any falling.

Crops can’t be moved and we knew we would be faced with some loss. We spent Friday and Saturday frantically harvesting everything we could including lettuce, Swiss chard, tomatoes , cucumbers, zucchini, beans  and winter squash – many of the things you find in your share this week.

We sealed all the barns and greenhouses and even parked our trucks around the sides of our largest greenhouse to reduce the impact of the wind.  All objects that could blow away were put away.  Saturday afternoon it began to rain and we went home feeling as though we had thought of everything we could do to protect our fields, buildings and animals.

We made calls that week to check to make sure insurance was in place on buildings and greenhouses.  In anticipation of loosing crops I planted some more beds of seed before the storm came so that it would be safely in the ground and would sprout after the weather calmed.  We had received ladybugs on Wednesday and decided to hold them in our cooler and not subject them to the winds and have them blow away. Forget about fire – ladybugs need to worry about hurricanes!

Friday and Saturday night we had trouble sleeping not knowing what to expect.  Sunday morning Irene arrived and we awoke to trees swaying and snapping and leaves blowing down.  I sat by the window with binoculars to try and get a look at the greenhouse, barns and fields every chance I could.  With our kids Forest and Shira, we were very anxious to get outside as it is very unusual for us to be inside during the day. Not knowing the extent of the damage made it worse.   When the winds calmed I went out to check the fields and got a call from Hassler, Farm Manager, that the greenhouses and buildings were OK.

There were trees down on fences and leaves everywhere.  Corn was laying on the ground and broccoli and kale were on their sides.   I looked at the leaves and it appears that they will be able to rebound once the sun comes out and the wind calms.  Overall I felt we escaped the storm better than expected.   We spent a couple of hours clearing the roads of downed trees, me using a chainsaw and Forest (6) and Shira (4) copying me with their little hand saws.

Monday morning Forest and I went up at sunrise to open the greenhouses and release the lady bugs in the kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli beds. We got to take a closer look at the crops.

The damage was greatest on the summer crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and winter squash.  The cucumbers and squash are pretty much destroyed from the wind whipping tender leaves and stems.  Beets, Swiss chard and cauliflower plants lost leaves, their roots were damaged, and some young seedlings were damaged.  Tomato plants fared well but all the fruit was knocked off, and the late blight fungus, which has already been present in spots this summer, may rebound now that there is so much wetness all around, and kill of the remaining plants. Only time will tell.

We are so late in the season now that these crops can’t be replaced.  Although there may be some harvest of these items in small quantities, there may not be enough for a full CSA share for any of these crops.

The seed I did plant before the storm did sprout and we did keep some broccoli seedlings in the greenhouse that were supposed to be planted last week as we knew they would be damaged.

The good news is that we had harvested tomatoes, Swiss chard, and cucumbers before the storm for your share this week. Most of the Corn, eggplants and peppers were OK – but these crops would normally be coming to an end at this time of the year anyway, as the heat of the summer ebbs.  We have onions, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash and beets in good quantities to give out in future shares, although tops are damaged roots are fine.   Kale, collards, fennel, bok choi, cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli and surprisingly lettuce survived.  We are thankful the winds and rains weren’t as severe as expected as plants were pushed to the breaking point and were nearly ripped out of the ground.  If you do see holes in leaves of it is probably a result of the storm.

We do feel grateful for being spared worse damage, and our hearts go out to the farms in the Hudson Valley and other areas where flooding was much worse. We are proud to be able to have kept our commitment to you throughout the storm season (to date) – we  brought you a pre-hurricane Saturday share as planned, and also this Wed share as scheduled, when many farms have cancelled shares due to lack of electricity, crop loss, etc.

Year in, year out, no matter what happens to the weather, we are constantly thinking ahead to how we can best provide value and quality to our CSA members. We never forget  the commitment you have made to our farm, and the stability and success here that you help make possible. Thanks also to everyone who sent us warm wishes before the storm – it did help to know that whatever happened, you were thinking of us and the farm.