Wen Jay Ying runs the community share agriculture program, LocalRootsNYC, and has been volunteering to help New York state farms like Rogowski Farm, get back on their feet after Hurricane Irene.
Crates of tomatoes of all varieties are stacked in the middle of the outdoor wash room — beefsteak, black prince, and green zebra to name a few. From afar, these crates of tomatoes represented the bounties of a farmers work; however, a closer look shows the distress and challenges farmers have been faced with since Hurricane Irene. Tomatoes ooze out of their skin, damaged by the heavy rain. These survivors of the hurricane which were picked before the storm will be the last of the season — a tomato season which normally would last throughout September.
We sorted through the good and the bad, dumping the damaged into a compost bin while swatting mosquitos and flies away. The compost bin grew exponentially as the “good bin” sat patiently. The tomato pile in the compost bin was also peppered with damaged asian melons. A bright yellow—lime color, the majority of these melons never made it past the farm this season. If not in the compost bin, they could also be found floating in the puddles of water that still lingered on the farm.
The damage goes as far as the eyes can see—almost all 150 acres of Rogowski farm—but below the mixture of rain and river water is the most beautiful black dirt you will ever see; hence this area’s name, The Black Dirt Region. When the weather is dry, this dirt will make you feel like you’re walking on springs and soaks up water like a sponge; however, after a heavy rain your feet will sink in deep as the ground over flows with water.
This is not only the busiest time for farms to sell their produce, but it is also too late in the season to begin growing new vegetables in the ground. Most farms will most likely rely on growing in high tunnels, bartering with other farmers, and selling what was not damaged by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. It’s moments like this, when the farmers markets are emptier and our CSA shares are smaller, that we see a glimmer of the many challenges our farmers face and a reminder of the importance of supporting our local farms.
Local Roots NYC will be hosting Hurricane Irene Relief efforts for Rogowski Farm. Join them at a supper club with Farmer Cheryl Rogowski as the guest of honor. $75 gets you seven dishes with a main course of whole lamb braised and grilled, one hour of complimentary wine, and one ticket to their benefit raffle. Raffle prizes include a home brewing kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop, Gift Cards to Blue Marble Ice Cream and Egg Restaurant, and Tickets to a Dinner Symposium at Bubby’s Restaurant.