Recent flood swamped local NY farms

PA farms were more fortunate

By TOM KANE

RIVER VALLEY Three local Sullivan County farms were hit hard by recent flooding. Many others were minimally affected.

The River Brook Farm, an organic farm owned by Neal and Alice Fitzgerald of Cochecton, NY, lost 90 percent of its crop. The organic farm owned and operated by John Gorzynski, also of Cochecton, lost 40 to 50 percent. The Wild Roots Farm in Youngsville, NY, owned by Wes and Amy Gillingham, lost up to 80 percent.

Fitzgerald’s farm is on the Delaware River. Gorzynski’s is on the Ten Mile River, an Upper Delaware tributary. The Gillinghams’ farm is on Callicoon Creek, another Upper Delaware tributary. All three were flooded multiple times in the past two years, and all are still functioning.

Fitzgerald said his farm will be open on weekends for the rest of the season.

“What hurts more than losing crops is the loss of topsoil,” Fitzgerald said. “The ground was still loose and couldn’t resist the currents.”

Fitzgerald claimed the floodwaters reached a 500-year flood plain on his property. “I know clearly where the 100-year flood plain is, and I can compute that the level of water this time went four times higher. I consider that the 500-year flood level, or very close to it.”

Amy Gillingham said the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) component of the farm is keeping them afloat. None of the customers, who had already paid for their shares, had complained that they would be getting fewer vegetables this year. “Everyone was very supportive,” she said. “We lost our market season, and the CSA is what kept us from really going down.”

Gorzynski would not compute how big his financial loss was. “You don’t know how valuable a crop is until you sell it,” he said.

Pennsylvania local farms experienced minimal damage.

“Two Pennsylvania farmers have fields they rent that were washed out and the crop lost,” said Ed Pruss of the Penn State Extension in Wayne County. “One was a crop of corn down on the Dyberry Flats, north of Honesdale, PA, which was on a field rented by Andy Weist, whose farm is on high ground near Honesdale.

Another PA farm, the Diehlline Farm in Conklin Hill, PA, owned by Don and Louis Diehl, lost a crop of corn on leased land that was flooded in the flats along the river at Cochecton, NY.

Assistance is being offered to farms affected by the flood through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Farmers should contact their county USDA farm service agency office for assistance regarding lost crops, livestock or milk losses. Emergency loans are also available.

For losses to primary residences, farmers are directed to contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which currently has representatives in Pike, Wayne and Sullivan counties.

TRR photo by Tom Kane
Organic farmer Neal Fitzgerald examines his field where topsoil was washed away. (Click for larger version)