The Farmplate Blog

After the Storm: Rebuilding our Farm and Food Communities

Larissa Curlik Sep 08, 2011 News 0 comments

It’s been over a week now since Hurricane Irene pommelled the East Coast, devastating neighborhood farms, markets and restaurants across New York, New Jersey and Vermont. Thanks to the support of their communities, many have weathered the storm and re-opened for business already.

American Flatbread in Waitsfield, Vermont, which suffered extensive damage to Lareau Farm, re-opened last Friday. Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea Co. was hit hard with water welling up in their roasting lab. But with much gratitude for the “heartfelt love, help and support” of their community, their roasters are fired up again and wholesale orders are rolling in once more.

While the waters have receded, the worst of the damage is not over for many, however. Restaurants and markets across the East Coast that source locally will have a tough time this Fall finding fresh ingredients. Many farmers lost their entire fall harvest—as well as their income for the remainder of the year—as they watched their crops wash away in the storm.

Half Pint Farm rushed to harvest their last cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers and Anaheims before the winds and water flushed their fields. Two days later the water was still feet deep in some areas of the farm.

Despite all the devastation, Irene has provided us with an opportunity to rebuild an even stronger local food economy by supporting the farmers, food artisans, restaurants, markets and other local food businesses in our communities. 

What can you do to help?

1.    Buy local.
Many farmers scrambled to harvest their crops before the storm and are now relying on restaurants and customers to buy their surpluses before they spoil. Show your support for your farmers by buying local produce, cheese and meats at your neighborhood farmers’ market or co-op.

City Market will be donating 1 percent of sales from this Saturday, September 3 through Friday, September 16 to the Intervale Center’s Farmers' Recovery Fund <http://www.intervale.org/>. Customers may also make donations directly to the fund when they check out.

Local markets are also a great place to show support for businesses hurt by the storm. Purchase American Flatbread’s frozen flatbreads, Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea coffee and other locally produced goods at your area market.  

2.    Dine Out
The Kitchen Table Bistro has partnered with Half Pint Farm and other Intervale farmers to dish up local fare featuring ingredients from farmers who were able to salvage some of their crops before the flood wiped out their fields. All proceeds go directly to the farming community.

Micheal’s on the Hill restaurant in Waterbury Center is hosting an Irene Relief Fundraiser dinner < www.michaelsonthehill.com/ > next Tuesday from 5 to 8 pm.  All proceeds will go to the Vermont Irene Relief Fund.

Shelburne Farms is donating 10 percentof sales at the Inn Dining Room and the Farm Cart now through Sunday, September 11. Sales support the Vermont Farm Disaster Relief Fund.

In New York City, where many surrounding farmers suffered similar fates, restaurants will contribute 10% of their sales on September 25 to Just Food and GrowNYC to benefit area farmers hit by the hurricane. Check out their website for a list of participating restaurants and details.

3. Get Involved
Contact your local farmers to find out how you can volunteer your time to help out. FarmPlate makes it easy to find your local farmers and food producers. Just type in “farmers” or “food artisans” and your zip code above and press GO!.

Or, search for a “crop mob” near you for a flash-style volunteer storm. Last week, CropMob in the Hudson Valley put out a call for folks to help area farmers clean up from the hurricane.  It’s not too late to help!

Crob Mob NYC
has put together a list of farmers who have requested volunteer help. NOFA-NY continues to organize crop mobs and volunteer opportunities and the Hudson Valley Food Network has organized a forum to take request for farmers in need. Pure Catskills has also gathered an extensive list of disaster relief opportunities in the upstate region.

If you prefer the kitchen over the field, host a benefit dinner or potluck to support your neighborhood farmers, food artisans, markets and restaurants, then donate contributions to one of the funds listed below.

4. Donate
The Vermont Community Foundation has teamed up with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture to create the Vermont Farm Disaster Relief Fund to provide grant support to farms that sustained losses from Irene.

The Intervale Center has established a Farmers’ Recovery Fund  to help farmers and farm businesses offset crop losses and repair damage from flooding along the 135 acres of cultivated land along the Winooski River in Vermont.

The Vermont Farm Fund is accepting tax-deductible donations to fund $5,000 zero interest loans to benefit Vermont farms hurt by Hurricane Irene. The fund was initially established by Pete’s Greens in partnership with the Center for an Agricultural Economy earlier this year and inspired by the generosity of the community when their farm’s barn burned to the ground in January.

The Burlington Farmers’ Market is running silent auctions to raise money at the markets each Saturday in September. The money raised will be split between the Intervale Center’s Farmers' Recovery Fund  and the Vermont Irene Flood Relief Fund.

The Northeast Organic Farmers Association’s Farmer Emergency Fund is hosting an online auction through October 1. Proceeds will be awarded to farmers via grants and zero interest loans to help them recover from the flooding.

In New York, GrowNYC, the non-profit that manages city Greenmarkets, has set up a donation page to collect funds to distribute to the farmers they work with who suffered hurricane damage. Just Food has also established a Hurricane Fund to channel support directly to farms in their network.

This list is just a start to the many ways you can help. Check out local events in your community for other ways to provide support. The Burlington Ensemble, for example, will have a concert this Saturday, September 10 from 6 to 10 pm to raise money for the the Intervale Center’s Farmers' Recovery Fund. The concert will feature internationally renowned violinist Soovin Kim (Artistic Director, Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival) and include guest artists. Like Burlington Ensemble on Facebook to learn more about the event and program.

Have other ideas about how to help? Write a comment and let us know about events, fundraisers, funds, farmers, food artisans, restaurants or markets near you that could use our support.