Irene reminds us farms are vital

Published 11:42 pm Friday, September 2, 2011

Last Saturday, Hurricane Irene came and went, leaving us without power and yards filled with debris. During the past week, most of us have gotten our power back — and our ability to take a hot shower! — and cleaned up the downed trees and water damage. A week later, Irene is mostly a memory, though, not a very nice one.

But farmers in the area are still picking up the pieces.

While the rest of us merely returned to work and moved on with our lives, the return to work for farmers meant taking stock of how much of their livelihood Irene ruined and how much of it the storm helped.

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For some farmers, who had recently been praying for any bit of rain to help boost their crops, Irene was a godsend. But most farmers didn’t need anywhere near the amount of rain the storm dumped on Suffolk, nor was wind part of the bargain.

One farmer, Shelley Barlow of Cherry Grove Road, described her crops’ post-storm condition as “really twisted up and laid over.”

Beyond how the crops look, many local farmers won’t be sure of the exact losses until they attempt to harvest some of the damaged plants, especially the cotton and corn crops.

Hopefully many of these farms will be able to receive aid from the state or their insurance companies to cover the losses.

On a personal front, I was saddened to receive a report from Clay Hill Farms that Irene had ruined some of their crops. Edmond and Jan Morris, who provide my weekly community-supported agriculture delivery, emailed all of us subscribers on Monday to let us know that we wouldn’t be getting deliveries for at least a week.

When I started my delivery, I never expected how excited I would be about getting up at 7:30 a.m. every week — on a Saturday, no less — to pick up my delivery of fresh-from-the-Suffolk-farm fruits and vegetables. I’ve even become dependent on Clay Hill for my weekly menus. I feel lost today, not being able to get a bag of surprise goodies from Suffolk, and that only drives home how important Clay Hill Farms has become to me.

But we should all acknowledge the importance of farms in our own lifestyles, even if we don’t buy our produce direct from them.

Suffolk was built at least in part on the agricultural community. It would be a huge blow to farmers and non-farmers alike if our farms were ever permanently wiped from our community. With that in mind, I encourage you to keep patronizing — or make the change to patronize — your local farm, in whatever way you can. Their losses are our losses. Hopefully the losses from Irene will end up being manageable and Suffolk farms will continue to flourish.