After The Flood

Surreal is good word to use in describing the days since August 17.  The most interesting thing to me was the next day when I went to check our blueberry bushes. Hours before, they had been nearly waist deep in water, but were still covered with berries at the time.  Imagine my surprise to find the bushes alive with insects (both beneficial and pest varieties) and all of the remaining blueberries hanging limply by the stems. I know that too much rain can cause blueberries to get too plump and split. However, I think when the flash flood arrived, the insects simply headed for the tops of the blueberry bushes and began stress eating!

The first step once the flood waters recede is to clean debris from the creek because we want the water to continue to flow and debris causes dams and blockage.  All of our “creek neighbors” were out doing the same type of work. The flood waters take and the flood waters give.  In the process, Robert found heavy, square, red, picnic table on our property.  Once we determined who the rightful owners were, Robert used leverage to maneuver it onto the back of the farm truck. I wish I had snapped a photo as it filled the entire bed side to side and front to back! We made the return delivery one evening and enjoyed speaking with the owner who has lived in the area longer than our 28 years. He said he has never seen Cane Creek so high! It reached his back steps, but did not seep into his home which is a Blessing. We knew it was high because for the first time in 28 years, it came OVER the berm around the field in which we garden. The berm was built in the 1960’s by the Army Corp of Engineers.  They also straightened the creek at the time to allow better flow, I suppose. The picture of a winding meandering creek bed is romantic until it is flooding ones crops and livelihood!

Robert began our flood cleanup process as soon as the ground was dry enough; and then is rained some more simply postponing the work which lies ahead. Usually the fall cleanup starts a couple of months later in the year, but it is always just the reverse of the spring set up. Old plants must be pulled out or mowed down, binding ties must be cut and collected, fencing and fence posts removed, the holding staples, drip tape and irrigation mainlines  must be collected, then the fabric staples pulled, and finally the fabric folded up and set aside for another season. Fortunately, we still have our drip mainlines and fabric to give the extra clean up attention to this year!

I do not know if this was a 50-year or 60-year flood event. I do know it was much worse in some parts of WNC than it was here in eastern Buncombe County. The fact that the ground was already saturated when Hurricane Fred made his way into the area was certainly part of the problem.  I was reading online about the WNC July 1916 flood which was horrific. I can only assume this was not a 100-year flood.

I have been asked if this loss is covered by crop insurance. The answer is no. If we grew only a single crop such as just tomatoes or just potatoes, then such coverage would be available. However, it is not for offered for our direct-to-consumer CSA business model. This explains why most CSA’s request advance payment for the entire harvest season from their customers early in the year! A CSA Farmer’s risk is covered by his CSA farm shareholders!!

We still have some cabbages, carrots, and peppers from our gardens to cover the next two pickup days. Then going forward, we will supplement our many, many pounds of previously dug potatoes with some produce from the WNC Farmers Market. I like to eat organically, so I will look for produce which has ample, layered covering (sweet corn) and hard shells (winter squash) or will be peeled (possibly beets). We do not grow sweet corn and we lost our winter squash and beets!

I have spoken directly to most all of our CSA Members. Robert and I appreciate your acknowledgement of our financial and emotional loss due to this unexpected weather event. We also are grateful that most of our CSA Members have indicated their continued commitment to our farm though the month of October! We have always had farm income through October—sometimes through November and one time through December! But with your continued commitments through October, we shall be able to afford to continue farming again next harvest season! Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottoms of our hearts!!!