The swollen Colorado River might be lined by farms and ranches, but most farms in the Austin area escaped great damage from Hurricane Harvey over the weekend.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling the effects, however.
Johnson’s Backyard Garden lost $25,000 in farmers market sales over the week because the markets in Austin and Houston were closed, owner Brenton Johnson says, and they also couldn’t deliver CSA boxes to customers in those cities. The good news is that their fields didn’t flood as badly as they have in previous storms, and they didn’t suffer any infrastructure damage due to high winds, he said.
Like many farms in the area, Johnson’s staff are in the middle of cleaning out the summer crops and planting the fall ones, and after seeing the weather forecast last week, Johnson delayed putting fall plants in the ground. Now they’ll have to wait a few weeks to plant so the fields can dry, putting them about three weeks behind schedule, he says.
“We are right in the beginning of a major planting season, so our greenhouses are busting at the seams,” Johnson says. “We have to wait another week for the fields to dry out, so we’re concerned about some of the plants getting too old and won’t be top quality, but it could have been worse.”
At Green Gate Farms, high winds caused the roof on a shed to nearly collapse, and one of the big pigs escaped through a broken fence. Farmer Skip Connett said that the domino effect will hurt them the most.
“For instance, we were racing to get a hoop house completed at our Bastrop farm so we could get reimbursed by Natural Resources Conservation Service. That’s not likely to happen on time, which means bills won’t get paid. The biggest concern, though is losing planting time for our fall season. Now that we can’t plant and fields must be repaired, it’s likely the season will be delayed.”
She said the best way to help would be for customers to sign up for their fall CSA now so that they’ll have the money to make repairs around the farm before the season starts.
Sue Beckwith, executive director of Texas Center for Local Food, said farmers who planted before the rain might have lost some crops, but the damage locally wasn’t nearly as bad as had been expected.
The organization is setting up a relief fund for farmers, especially those closer to Houston, who come forward later this week with emergency needs. “The alluvial soil along the Colorado River is so good for growing, but if you’re half a mile from the river bank, most years, you’re going to be fine,” she says. “For some farmers, this isn’t one of them.”
Here are some reports from other local farms:
- Boggy Creek Farm in East Austin opened its farm stand amid the rain on Saturday morning, and Carol Ann Sayle reported that 39 customers came by. Even though their farm is near Boggy Creek, their fields did not flood. Some of the tarps flew off, but the plans underneath were fine, for the most part.
- Max Elliott at Urban Roots said that even though they got more than 10 inches of rain over several days and lost a few trees, they didn’t have any major damage to buildings or equipment.
- Springdale Farm is donating 100 percent of proceeds from Wednesday’s farm stand, which takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 755 Springdale Road, to Austin Disaster Relief Network. You can also drop-off donations for ADRN at the farm stand until noon.
- Texas Farmers Market has an emergency relief fund that they use to help local growers facing medical- and weather-related emergencies. You can click here to donate.