Hurricane Irene may have swept through the Northeast nearly two weeks ago, but much of New York State is still reeling from her effects. Mass flooding upstate has devastated many New York farms, completely destroying crops and abruptly shortening or ending the season’s harvest. One farmer in the Hudson Valley lost more than a third of his 1,500 acres corn and vegetables. Federal aid is being directed to help these farmers get back on their feet, but a group of local food-loving city dwellers has created an opportunity for all New Yorkers to help out simply by eating out. Today, as part of Dine Out Irene, more than 100 restaurants will donate 10 percent of their proceeds to relief efforts for local farms.
All of the money raised during the event will go to GrowNYC and Just Food, who will then distribute the funds to local farmers. Organized by Gabriella Gershenson, a New York City food writer, along with Rachel Wharton (Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn), Robert Lavalva (New Amsterdam Market), Adam Sachs, Kat Kinsman, and help from some friends, Dine Out Irene has the support of ninety of the city’s best restaurants, plus more than a dozen restaurants outside the city. Local-food focused The Green Table, Tom Colicchio’s Riverpark, the highly-rated Buttermilk Channel, plus many more, have all signed up to participate.
Parts of New York that were ravage by mass flooding were declared a federal disaster area, and they will receive federal aide, but Senators Gillibrand and Schumer are now seeking emergency aid specifically for New York farmers. After a recent visit through Orange County, Schumer saw that many farmers’ most profitable crops were still submerged in flood waters.
“I’ve been involved in agriculture my entire life,” said Darrel J. Aubertine, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets, to the New York Times, “and there have been times when the weather has wreaked havoc on livestock and farms, but I don’t think I have ever seen anything on this scale here in New York.”
Some farmers are looking at $1 million in lost profits, while others are concerned about crop diseases spreading through the waters. Others still suffered lost livestock that were swept away in flood waters, and many farmers have been unable to feed or tend to their livestock because of washed out roads.
No matter how you look at it, the situation is bleak. For us city dwellers, we may only see the loss in the diminished supply at the Greenmarket stalls, but for the farmers who satiate our sweet corn and heirloom tomato cravings, the loss is a huge hit that impacts every aspect of their lives.
You can help out by participating in Dine Out Irene or by donating directly to the relief efforts.