Eating locally grown food has forced me to understand the impact of weather. When I purchase all my produce from a supermarket, almost no matter what happens, they always have the basics in stock. Oranges frozen in Florida? Get them from California instead. Drought? Floods? No matter, find another source. So, I've never really noticed the effects of weather on food except for maybe a slight rise in the price of my staples. It is unthinkable to go into a supermarket in the USA and not see a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables.
But visiting the local Farmers' Markets in the past weeks, I've noticed that the fresh produce offerings seemed smaller than usual. Several of my favorite farm stands weren't even in attendance. Corn, tomatoes, peaches, pears and apples should be overflowing the wooden crates at this point in the season. Instead, much of what I saw looked a little bruised and mingy. The wind and lashing rain of Irene damaged many local crops and destroyed many others further north. The small farms in our area live on the knife edge of survival at the best of times, and these are not the best of times. Some areas, such as Warwick, NY, have suffered from six "50 Year Floods" since 2009.
One thing I learned about the effects of a torrential storm such as Irene, is that not only does it ruin crops in the short-term, but the flooding and heavy rains cause topsoil to wash away. And topsoil is an essential layer because it contains all the fungi, humus, bacteria and worms needed for plant growth. So, this lost topsoil needs to be replenished with large amounts of compost, costing the farmers money that they hadn't planned on spending and often can't afford. The effects of storms can be catastrophic over the long-term as well.
Instead of sharing a cheery recipe this week, I though I'd share some links regarding the state of our local farms in the aftermath of the storm. Part of eating locally is gaining an understanding about our interconnectedness with each other and with nature. Irene has certainly made me aware of how small our world can be.
This link details the damage sustained by farms in Orange County, NY and features a link to a fundraiser to help the local farmers.
This link gives a wide-ranging description of the effects of Irene and has several fundraising links.
Last, this links to a fundraiser for local farmers that sell their produce in New York City. Many of these farms also attend our Westchester farm markets.
But the best thing of all is to stay committed to eating locally! Farmers are marvelously adaptable and dedicated, but they need us to buy their produce. So keep visiting those farmers' markets, go apple and pumpkin picking and stay informed.