flood damage

Repeated Heavy Rains & Flooding Create ‘Devastating' Conditions for CT Farmers

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Farms across the state say they’re dealing with one of the worst summers they’ve ever seen. This is one of the wettest summers on record, and farmers are wondering how they’ll recover.

“The ground is saturated; the fruits are just rotting,” said Lisa Gilbert, who owns Gilbert Farm LLC in Rocky Hill.

About 30 inches of rain have drenched the state this summer, and it’s left farmers with rotten produce, crops that can’t grow, and land that’s unusable.

“It’s a miserable feeling. It’s a miserable feeling. I work seven days a week. I work 12-14 hour days. To not even make it pay? You start to ask yourself, what are you doing?” said Gilbert.

Gilbert says the only summer worse than this year for her was when Tropical Storm Irene came through and washed away everything. This season she says she’s down about third in sales. She says crops aren’t producing and that they’ll end their season for selling produce at the end of September. That’s a month earlier than usual. They’ll end the season in the red.

“I can’t afford to put any more input cost into salvaging the crop at this point,” said Gilbert. “Everybody I’ve talked to, anybody who is in the agricultural business this year, very traumatic, devastating.”

NBC Connecticut covered flooding at Gilbert Farm twice back in July. Gilbert, a fifth-generation farmer, said back then they were already seeing crop loss and trying to find ways to adjust their fall planting plans because of all that rain.

Some farmers along the Connecticut River fear they may lose their crops if river levels keep rising.

Burnham Farms in East Hartford, which cultivates 400 acres, says in 70 years this is their worst one financially and that the weather has ruined almost every crop.

“I’m hoping that there’s going to be some disaster relief grants, something to help the farmers get back on their feet,” said Gilbert.

Last week the state received approval for a federal agriculture disaster declaration due to Tropical Storm Elsa. That allows for farmers to apply for emergency loans. The governor’s office says it’s working for similar declarations for Henri and Ida.

Congressman John Larson said in a statement: “Our small farmers in Connecticut have been deeply impacted by the storms this summer. I personally surveyed the damage done to the Burnham farm in East Hartford. That’s why the Connecticut Congressional Delegation and I sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack urging him to approve Governor Lamont’s emergency declaration request for Tropical Storm Elsa. This request has been approved and farms are now eligible for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). I have spoken with Secretary Vilsack directly on this issue and am working on legislation to further help small farms.”

Gilbert says this is a season that will take years to recover from. And the concern is that facing major losses like this again could force local farms to close down for good.

“When you get hit hard with weather events like this, I don’t know how to pick up the pieces and move forward. Something has to change. Something has to give,” said Gilbert.

Gilbert Farm in Rocky Hill will stay open for the season to sell produce and flowers until the end of September. We’re told they’ll reopen the week of Thanksgiving to sell Christmas trees, wreaths, and other items.

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