Written by Jeanne Hodesh of GrowNYC’s Greenmarket
While New York City was largely spared from Hurricane Irene, many of the small family farms that fill GrowNYC’s Greenmarkets with their incredible bounty this time of year took a devastating hit. In the wake of the storm’s wrath, the Black Dirt region of Orange County is still flooded, Sullivan County and Ulster County have seen significant damage, and there are parts of Greene County that no longer exist. Several farmers in New Jersey and Vermont were also drastically impacted. We estimate that 80% of Greenmarket farmers have been impacted, with about 10% reporting severe loss—70-100% of their products.
This couldn’t have happened at a worse time of year, as September is when our farmers make the money they need to sustain their family farm businesses through the long winter ahead and carry them into the next season. It is too close to the frost to re-plant, and in addition to the great summer harvest that typically arrives in September, these farmers have lost their winter storage crops as well—beets, potatoes, onions and squash—the products that sustain year-round sales. Some farmers lost their entire tomato harvest, others watched whole fields of pumpkins and onions float away in waters eight feet deep—thousands of dollars worth of investment washed downstream, and many watched an entire season of work and hope drown. More than one farmer has reported saving his chickens from the rising waters by canoe, and the stories keep coming. A gallery of flooded fields has been posted on Flickr.
Through the storm and days following, the farmers have kept working—harvesting what they could before the rain, coming to market with what they have left. They are an intensely tough group and are taking the recovery one step at a time, with a dose of humor and optimism thrown in. What they need now is the wind of the community at their back. Greenmarket and Bloggers without Borders are proposing a collective Dine In. Whether you’re a New York City Greenmarket regular, an enthusiastic locavore, or a food lover anywhere, help a farmer, cook a meal, feed your friends—and ask for donations. It is, after all, harvest season, a plum time to throw a dinner party.
During the week of September 26 – October 2, join us by hosting a potluck or supper club in your home, source ingredients from your neighborhood Greenmarket, then donate the proceeds from your tip jar to those producers who need our help to recover from the flooding. Share photos of your gathering for all to see at the Bloggers Without Borders #DineInIrene gallery. Good will and good food go a long way.
For more information on how you can participate, check out the Dine In Irene project summary page.