The Transylvania Times -

Farmers Impacted By Heavy Rains


April 25, 2019

Courtesy Photo

Rachel Kinard, owner of Just Ripe Farm, walks the property she leases at 1200 Old Hendersonville Highway after last Friday's rains.

Local farmers are feeling the impact of last week's torrential rain and many are digging their way out from debris, garbage and silt that have destroyed their first crop of the season.

Much of the land that farmers own or lease in Transylvania County is in the floodplain. Twice in the last six months the French Broad River has reached the 100-year floodplain, which is the projected area where waters will reach every 100 years when there is a storm that produces that much rain. At Just Ripe Farm on the Old Hendersonville Highway, it appeared that the water last week reached the 500-year flood mark. Owner Rachel Kinard has leased the land for several years, although for the last two years she has lost much of her investment from the flooding. The farm backs up to the French Broad River on the south side of the property.

"We just planted everything and we were getting ready for the season in the last month," she said. "This is planting season, and I was just starting to harvest some stuff already. I had tomatoes in a large hoop house and in the smaller hoop house eggplant, peppers, arugula, radishes and lettuce. In the field, I had planted kale, collards, a bunch of flowers and some summer squash I just put out."

Kinard said that flooding washed all sorts of debris, garbage and items like gas cans onto the property, and now she's cleaning it all up. The water flooded her barn and the water level was over the Old Hendersonville Highway.

"It's pretty gross," she said. "E. coli can live in the soil for two to three months. It's recommended that I don't replant anything for several months."

Bacteria from upstream livestock operations, whether it is manure or fertilizer, can impact crops. According to the N.C. State Cooperative Exten-sion website, floodwater can contain E. coli, Listeria and Vibrio and parasitic contaminants from septic tanks, animal feces and dead animals. The program recommends farmers wait several months before replanting anything.

"It was such a bad year last year, so my risk is lower," she said. "I just didn't plant as much this year because I lost so much last year. We just built that new hoop house. I have never even seen a crop come to harvest. I lost about $3,000 in seed money and a ton of labor."

Kinard, who has a part-time job as the volunteer coordinator for the Hunger Coalition in Transylvania County, said she may plant a late summer crop, but that she has lost her main source of income and she will be looking for more work.

"I could plant a late summer crop, but I don't know if I will," she said. "I might plant flowers because they're not edible, but I am looking for other work right now. I just don't know what I am going to do now, but I know I am going to figure it out. I'm still trying to process everything."

Bart Renner, the cooperative extension agent for N.C. State University in Transylvania County, said that he is working with a number of farms in the county to open up clogged waterways and to make sure their fields are draining properly.

He said that there are very few good options for farmers to prevent this, but that cover crops are really a farmer's best bet for keeping soil where it is.

Courtesy Photo

Kinard lost her first crop of the season, but her farm stand, located off the Old Hendersonville Highway, will remain open.

"We encourage everybody right now to get in touch with the Farm Service Agency and the North Carolina Natural Resources Conservation Service," he said. "They need to know about any damage, and they need to know about the damage before farmers try and fix it, so they can document it and put Best Management Practices (BMP) in place into rehabilitating the land. That program is the emergency conservation program. There is cost-share assistance available for rehabilitating flooded and degraded farm land for major events like this."

Renner said that farmers have very few valuable tools available to them and this is why he really recommends practices such as cover cropping and rotational grazing for cattle farmers.

"There's money available for cover cropping," he said. "Cover cropping is really the best practice available as far as preventing erosion and it can be done on an organic or conventional farm. It's a great way to increase soil fertility, prevent erosion and it's a BMP. I think, by and large, they are adopting this practice more and more, and that's something happening at a national level."


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