Tuesday, October 12, 2010

As the rain turned to hail...

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Last night I watched the rain turn to hail with 2 other urban farmers. We watched amazed and delighted by wondrous things Mother Nature can do. Then as we saw the hail grow bigger and louder and continue to grow our faces turned to looks of worry. Our thoughts quickly moved to our crops, spread across Brooklyn, from Red Hook, Ditmas Park, Crown Heights and East New York. We shared our looks of fear for what we would find in the morning.

It is amazing how an hour of weather can ruin months and months of work. The crops that we have nurtured and looked forward to sharing were ripped to shreds. The hundreds of pounds of vegetables we were counting on turned into confetti and thrown around the farm. Kristen from Added Value said it best “it’s as if someone threw a bucket full of rocks at the lettuce and then one thousand bunnies were let loose on them”.

I walked around the farm this morning wide eyed and in a state of disbelief. We lost almost all of our crops, 95%. Every eggplant is bruised and split, the okra is broken and torn, the lettuce shredded and powdered and the greens look like Swiss cheese. We have whole beds of the farm where I couldn’t even find the vegetables that were growing the day before. How does one literally loose 200 square feet of lettuce mix? It is sad to see so much so many people helped to create and nurture destroyed.

And all this is even before thinking about the loss of income. It is not just that we lost almost everything we were going to sell this week, but we lost everything for the next 6 weeks. We lost a quarter of our entire income for the year.

One of the things that makes bk farmyards different than some urban farms is that we are dependent on the sale of our produce. We do not have large grants that pay us a salary, or angel investors that help us to pay the bills. Our operations are simple; we grow the high quality food and sell it cheaply in areas that have little access to other options. We do this while teaching 4 days a week in the classroom, running an after school and summer program, year round volunteer days, 2 CSAs, a Farmers Market, apprenticeship programs, free workshops and working with other community members to build a healthier local food system. We do this for the love of the work and our commitment to creating a food system that is just.

Unfortunately this also makes us extremely vulnerable to extreme weather events like last night. We ask for your support as we clean up the farm and figure out how to continue our work in the next few weeks. We love the support of our friends with help on the farm and kind words of encouragement.