Hurricane Irene and the Farmers of New York's Union Square Greenmarket


[Photos: Ben Fishner]

Hurricane Irene was easy on New York City, but outside the city things were much tougher. Vermont experienced tremendous flooding after the storm, as did southern New Jersey and upstate New York. A quick turn around NYC's Union Square Greenmarket this week made clear that the storm was indeed devastating to many farmers in the Northeast.

Despite the damage, almost every farm was at the market Wednesday, with the exception of Honey Hollow Farm and Blue Moon Fish. Honey Hollow has seen extensive damage, and Blue Moon's filleting facility was flooded, though they are hoping to be at their Saturday markets. Even though the farms that did make it to the market were well stocked, these ample supplies are something of a red herring; we'll start to see things missing in the coming weeks, as many of this week's items were harvested before the storm.

Since floodwaters still haven't receded in many parts of New York, New Jersey and Vermont, farmers aren't sure exactly what they've lost or how bad the damage has been. Still, the outlook for many farmers is not good.

Orange Kabocha

Kabocha squash from Bodhitree Farm last fall. This year's crop might not fare so well.

Nevia No of Bodhitree Farm in southern New Jersey fears that she will have to end her season earlier than usual, and is still assessing damage to the farm. While their stand looked stocked as usual this week, No had low-growing plants totally submerged, and higher-growing plants knocked over by the hurricane's winds. "A lot of things are starting to rot in the water, especially vine crops on the ground," farmer Nevia No said, adding that flavor will be affected thanks to the extra water content. (Still, the local produce, no matter how wet, will almost always be more flavorful than supermarket items shipped in from who-knows-where.)

Michelle Bulich of Bulich Farm in Catskill, NY, said that she felt lucky that her farm survived the storm unscathed, but neighboring farms were not so lucky. "My sister-in-law is a flower farmer, and she lost everything—the best crop she's ever had." Bulich was troubled by the lack of media coverage of the storm's effect in her area and others outside the city. "What's sad is that if something happened down here, we would know about it upstate, but I cannot tell you how many customers have no idea. [...] We're all fellow New Yorkers, and it bothers me." Indeed, many at the market seemed to have no idea how the farmers they regularly buy from were hurt by the storm.


Carrots from Tamarack Hollow Farm in Burlington, VT; one of their few casualties.

Others in the hardest hit areas were incredibly lucky. Brittany Langdon of Tamarack Hollow Farm in Burlington, VT, said that though the farm was under water for over 24 hours, they only lost a few young crops--mostly carrots. They nearly lost their chickens, but thanks to a daring canoe rescue, they were all saved. Keith's Farm also had a field flooded, reported farm employee Laura Nyewening, but only lost some celeriac and kohlrabi.

There's no time like the present to shop at the market and support these farmers. They need our support more than ever. In addition to shopping at the Greenmarket, GrowNYC, the market's parent organization, has set up a donation page on their website, with 100% of the proceeds going directly to help Greenmarket farmers. Please contribute--every penny helps. Other fundraisers are percolating, and we'll keep you abreast of any we hear about.