Farmers Back on Track for 2012

For most city folks, the measly rainfall and brisk winds of Tropical Storms Irene and Lee left a brief and underwhelming impression. But for many local farmers, the floods of last fall's tropical storms caused considerable physical and financial damage, which they've been working hard to clear away all winter.

Last fall, Just Food teamed up with partners throughout the region to organize volunteers (like the group working in Goshen, right), gather donations, and advocate on behalf of our farmers hard hit by Tropical Storms Irene and Lee. Just Food collected individual donations through our website, diverted a portion of the proceeds from our annual fundraiser, Let Us Eat Local, and received contributions from local restaurants through Gabriella Gershenson’s Dine Out Irene, raising a total of $50,000. In January Just Food distributed donations to 9 local farmers in our network.

Tropical Storms Irene and Lee were the terrible ending to an already challenging 2011 growing season. The storms swept through the Northeast within two weeks of each other around Labor Day weekend, causing record flooding in upstate New York. At least 15 vegetable farmers in Just Food’s network suffered serious losses to their harvest, while many other farms shut down their season’s production early. Monkshood Nursery in Stuyvesant not only had to cancel the last seven weeks of their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), but also decided to opt out of the CSA network this year to rebuild their capacity.

Another farmer, Ana Angel of Angel Family Farm in Goshen, questioned her career decision after realizing the full extent of the storms’ damage. “When the tropical storms hit us, I thought farming is not for me and why did this happen?”

The New York farms that benefited directly from Just Food’s Hurricane Relief Fund were Angel Family Farm, Glebocki Farm, Gonzalez Farm, La Baraja Farm, Mimomex Farm, Muddy River Farm and W. Rogowski Farm in Orange county; Conuco Farm in Ulster county; and Monkshood in Columbia county. The farmers used the grants various ways from storm clean up and infrastructure repairs to early season investments.

“It was so touching to receive this donation and I am grateful to all who donated,” said Ana Angel. For all the farms, the grants were especially helpful in weathering the loss of revenue from the shortened season, allowing them to survive through the lean winter. Monkshood’s David Rowley is especially grateful for the help; “When the funds came from Just Food and Greenmarket and other sources of income, we were able to continue on. I had thought I'd have to work for someone else but help came and it makes me feel that Monkshood will succeed. I have hope."

With the 2012 growing season approaching, farmers are ready for a new season and new start. Here’s how you can support them: