By Regina Schrambling, Epicurious.com
Usually the only time you might notice nature has done a number on a crop is when you realize the avocado you normally buy for $1.99 can't be found anywhere for less than $3. But the storm that blew through the Northeast last week made the damage look up close and personal. So many farmers have been wiped out, losing everything at peak harvest season: not just tomatoes and lettuces exposed to the wind and rain but all the crops still underground. None of that will be available from them at any price.
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Even to me, immersed in food for decades, this storm has been an eye-opener. It's one thing to read newspaper coverage of flooding, another to hear a farmer just starting out say: "I have ten and a quarter acres. And ten of them flooded." Or another say, "Everything's gone. Potatoes, carrots: they're all rotted in the ground." I can't even imagine investing all that work and money planting, only to lose it all just when you stand to profit most (so to speak; everyone knows the way to make a million in sustainable farming is to start with two million). And while my consort and I had the naive idea they could raise prices, as the big corporate farmers always do, that won't work if they have nothing to sell.
Apparently benefits are being organized, and government loans may be available. Some farmers have even picked themselves up, dried themselves off and started replanting. But it's still devastating.
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And it wasn't just farmers who got slammed. I was surprised when I stepped out of the subway at Union Square last Wednesday and saw Blue Moon Fish's space empty at the Greenmarket. The fillet house they use was flooded and had no power, water or ice for days, so they took a hit, too.
I have a grocer friend who's really scornful of us "libs" and our adulation of farmers' markets, and he's right that we couldn't survive without his olive oils and pastas, not to mention fresh basil in dead of winter. But the markets matter not least because they keep you connected to nature. Which can be one mean mother. . .
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Photo: Regina Schrambling