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Mixed Impact

No farmers spared from storms’ wrath

September 25, 2011
By MIKE ZUMMO , The Leader Herald

The effect of Tropical Storms Irene and Lee on farms varied throughout the area, as some local farmers reported massive damage to crops; others reported losing a few crops.

No farmers, however, were unaffected.

"For farmers, dealing with weather comes with the territory. We're used to it. But nothing like this," said Peter Gregg of the New York Farm Bureau. "A lot of soils were washed away. To have it washed away and replaced by contaminated mud is a concern."

Article Photos

Customers buy produce from Cashin’s Farm at the Johnstown farmers market Tuesday on North Perry Street.

The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo

The federal Farm Service Agency, which assesses farm damage, put preliminary estimates at $45 million in New York.

Ken Coyne, who runs Bellinger's Family Orchard in Fultonville with his family, said eight apple trees were lost in the storm, although the orchard, at 500 feet above sea level, wasn't affected by floods that damaged other parts of Montgomery County.

However, rain and high wind caused a problem, as did the number of apples on the trees.

"Those three elements together started to cause problems in the orchard as some trees that are not supposed to need support started to go over," he said.

Coyne said he and his family spent Aug. 28., the day Irene hit, in the rain placing new support poles, pipes and wire. He said if they had done nothing, they would have lost 200 trees.

John Cashin of Cashin's Farm, also in Fultonville. said he didn't have any catastrophic losses. Cashin's grows mostly berries and apples, but also some vegetables to sell at various farmers markets in the area.

"I had a couple of apple trees blow down and some eroded fields," he said.

Cashin reported that an extended run of rainy weather throughout the season eroded his pick-your-own berry business. Some corn also was lost.

"I had some corn blow down and that makes it tough to pick when it's blowing sideways," Cashin said. "It's almost the end of vegetable season, so there wasn't too much damage there for me."

Paul Bargstedt of Young Corners Road in the town of Florida took a hit on his corn crop, as a 70-acre field was rendered unusable.

Jim Hoffman of Sand Flats Orchard in Fonda, which grows apples, berries, pumpkins and corn, in Fonda said his apple trees withstood the heavy rain, but a few blew down due to the high wind speeds generated by Irene.

Dairy farmers expect to struggle through the next year, replacing lost feed corn with grain purchased on a market that's seen costs rising along with the expense of fertilizer and fuel.

More than two weeks out from the storms, the number of animals lost still was not clear.

LaVerne Jones Sr. and his sons milk 150 cows out of a herd of 225 and also grow a lot of hay. Much of this year's third cutting of hay was lost due to the storms.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo initially said "countless cows" had been swept away. Some farmers in hard-hit upstate New York were able to move their herds to farms on higher ground, however.

Paul Bargstedt of Young Corners Road in the town of Florida took a hit on his corn crop, as a 70-acre field was rendered unusable.

Pumpkin farmers had been having a difficult year even before the storms raked the Northeast, bringing torrents of rain that overflowed rivers and flooded fields along the East Coast and into southern Canada.

Heavy rains in the spring meant many farms had to postpone planting for two or three weeks, setting back the fall harvest.

Coyne said Bellinger's pumpkins made it through the wet season and weren't affected much by Irene and Lee because they are planted on a gradual slope. He said the pie pumpkins in the center of the field struggled but pulled through.

The wholesale price for a bin of 32 to 45 pumpkins ranged from $150 to $200 in upstate, about twice the normal price. it was still unclear how the shortage would affect retail prices.

"The pumpkin crop looks good," Hoffman said. "It's a little lighter than last year, but we're still going to have plenty of pumpkins."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Mike Zummo can be reached at



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