Alyssa Moreno of SMM Farms in Hayesville will never forget what she calls “the worst day ever.” She walked out to her family’s strawberry fields to find flood waters rising, and the farm’s main cash crop completely underwater. She estimates the farm lost $20,000 worth of strawberries during the floods that raged through Western North Carolina in May.
You might think her family would feel discouraged, or maybe reconsider farming all together, but Alyssa says friends, customers, and neighbors are coming together to help them rebuild. “For the most part, the community has been super supportive,” she says. “We’ve gotten some donations coming in and we’ve gotten a lot of people saying, ‘We’ll still continue to come down.’”
They need a steady stream of customers at their fruit stand, but they also need fruit to sell them. The strawberries in the field aren’t salvageable, so the family has to be creative about reaching out for help. “Right now we’re going to get some strawberries from another local farmer in Franklin,” she says. “He’s going to sell us some so we have something here for everybody.”
Alyssa says the flood has motivated her and her husband Salvador to work harder—to make sure customers have access to local food, and to provide for their young family. “We’re just trying to piece everything together and keep working harder. It’s not just a business for us. It’s our family tradition. Salvador has been doing this for years,” she says. “This is probably going to be the hardest year for us, but we’re going to keep it going for the kids and for the community.”
North River Farms, about 100 miles east in Mills River, was also underwater this spring. Farmer Jason Davis has been cleaning up after the French Broad River and Boylston Creek overflowed onto several parts of his 1,500-acre hay, soy bean, and produce farm.
“It is frustrating when you put in hours and hours of hard work and your money’s invested out there in the fields,” he says. “It’s always heartbreaking to see crop loss, but that is a challenge that farmers have to face, and it’s something that we’ve faced before and worked through and it’s something we’ll work through this year.”
If you ask him to describe the hardest parts of rebuilding his farm, he’d rather talk about how other farms in the area are faring. “Our hearts go out to all the farmers and all those around us. There are others who have worse damage than us. A crop is one thing, but loss of life, that’s very serious so we’re just praying for everybody during these times,” he says.
If you’re wondering how to support flooded farms, look to farmers for advice. Alyssa suggests seeking out the local spring produce that is available, and buying summer crops like tomatoes and squash in bulk later this season for canning and preserving.
Agritourism is another way to support farms affected by flooding. North River Farms will be on ASAP’s Farm Tour June 23rd and 24th, and Jason encourages people to visit and learn about his farming practices. He has one of the largest-scale farms on the tour, though he says it’s important to support farms of all kinds.
“Farmers young and old, big and small, we’re all coming together. We’re all on the same team, and we all face some of the same challenges. Each farm is unique and has its own identity, but we can come together as a team to advocate and showcase agriculture,” he says.
Visitors on ASAP’s Farm Tour can see a variety of farms up close and talk to farmers about their experiences. Many farmers have products for sale, and all have stories to share about the joys and challenges of farming in Western North Carolina.
Find details about the Farm Tour and ticket information at asapconnections.org/events/asaps-farm-tour/
Aired: June 11, 2018