Carolina Growers Cope with Extensive Hurricane Florence Damage
Hurricane Florence inched its way across the Carolinas, unleashing more than 30 inches of rain in some areas. Flooded rivers prevented rain from draining from growing fields. And for more than a week after Florence trundled its way inland, rivers continued to rise, keeping hundreds of farms under water.
Sustained winds approached 90 miles per hour in some areas. For most of the growing areas, sustained winds were between 40 to 60 miles per hour, devastating to above-ground crops.
Infrastructure was a major problem, too. Roads throughout rural areas are still closed, and portions of the main north/south freeway, I-95, remained closed for more than week after the storm.
Vegetable Growers Weren’t Spared
Agricultural losses for North Carolina have exceeded $1.1 billion, the state’s Department of Agriculture reports. Most of the losses are in row crops. Vegetables and horticulture losses are at $26.8 million so far.
Jackson Farming Company, American Vegetable Grower‘s 2018 Grower Achievement Award winner, has numerous locations throughout North Carolina.
“The hurricane has displaced all above-ground fall crops here,” says Rodney Jackson, President and CEO of Jackson Farming Company. “Broccoli specifically, [for us]. The verdict is still out on the sweet potato crop. It’s also delayed putting in strawberry plastic.”
The farm’s main crop (melons) had already been harvested. Brent Jackson, Co-Founder of Jackson Farming Company, said other area farms fared much worst than he did.
North Carolina is the No. 1 state in sweet potato production, and most of the crop was still in the ground when Florence hit. The chances that is will be a good harvest are very low, farm crisis advocate Scott Marlow told National Public Radio.
“Sitting under water for long periods of time is very, very damaging,” he said.
Marlow also said specialty crop growers will have the hardest time recovering.
“The disaster programs are just not geared for that type of production, for that value, to really address those kinds of losses,” he said.