SCHAGHTICOKE – Thousands of acres of farmland have been destroyed by Irene’s flood waters. It couldn’t have come at a worse time, as the vegetable and berry harvests were in full swing.“It’s our livelihood. And to see all of the hard work that all of the people do on this farm to create this, it’s heart breaking,” said Justine Denison of Denison Farms.
Justine and Brian Denison’s farm in Schaghticoke took a tremendous hit after Irene. Brian estimates about 30 percent of the crop laden land was destroyed.
Nestled along the Tomhannock Creek, they knew flooding was possible, but never imagined the torrent of water they experienced.
“I didn’t expect to see it really racing across the top of this field, and doing the kind of damage that it did do,” Brian said.
The farm survived the downpour but not the flooding a few hours later when the creek raged over its banks.
The Denisons figure the flood gates at the Tomhannock Reservoir must have been opened.
“And within and hour it was just like this wall of water had come. It was frightening,” Justine said.
Two hours later, the field we walked was a roiling lake. A greenhouse that stood eight feet high was just about covered by the water.
The vegetables, ready for picking, were flattened or washed away. The rich topsoil the Denison’s nurtured for years was exchanged for rocks.
The small road used to cross the creek when it’s only a few inches deep is gone. So is the footbridge, carried downstream about half a mile, making it impossible to reach the main part of their farm. So they still don’t know what they will find there.
And yet, they know it could have been much worse.
“Like in the Schoharie Valley, a tremendous acreage was under water there. So there’s farmers all around that, you know, total loss or partial loss,” Brian said.
He hasn’t figured a dollar amount for their losses, be Brian estimates in the tens of thousands of dollars.
None of it is insured. No one will insure vegetable crops. So as the fields dry out, they’re back at work, hoping to salvage something of this season. Because the Denison’s don’t know what was in the flood water, they’ll have to plow under the crops that survived.
Cornell Co-Operative Extension is telling home gardeners to do the same, unless it was just rain water that flooded your garden.
As for farmers, you are urged to carefully document damage and report it to the USDA’s farm service agency.
The New York Farm Bureau has a list of federal agricultural relief programs that are available. You can call them at 1-800-342-4143 or click here.