Cuttingsville CSA Looks To Future

09/06/11 7:50AM By Melody Bodette
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VPR/Melody Bodette
Evening Song Farm after the Mill River changed course. The rocky area on the left of the small cabin is where the river used to run.

(Host) Many farms in Vermont are struggling to clean-up and move forward after the flooding associated with Tropical storm Irene.

Agriculture officials say that many dairy farmers may have to destroy hay and corn crops that were inundated with flood waters.

And vegetable growers are also dealing with the loss of crops.

VPR's Melody Bodette visited one farm in Cuttingsville that lost not only their crops, but also their farmland.

(Bodette) Ryan Wood-Beauchamp and Kara Fitzgerald, both 26-years-old, started Evening Song Farm just a year ago, after moving to Cuttingsville from Pennsylvania. 

And it was going well. 50 members had joined their CSA food share, and they were selling at farmers markets and to nearby restaurants.

Now, Wood-Beauchamp looks out over the Mill River, which now runs through his farm.

(Wood-Beauchamp) "There's rocks, river rocks, debris, forest debris, the remains of our greenhouse and that's it. There's no vegetables, there's no soil, there's no subsoil, it's the river that goes through here now."

(Bodette) The couple were evacuated on Sunday with their two goats and a dog:

(Wood-Beauchamp) "We were here when it jumped the banks, the river kept rising and rising, a trickle started going over the berm, right by a field where we grew our garlic and summer squash. And from the point when that first trickle went over, within 15 minutes, there were rapids in our fields and when we saw that we knew that all of our vegetables were going to be gone, and we thought we'd have the opportunity to decide if we wanted to re-invest in our soil and decide if we could make it work again."

courtesy photo
Evening Song Farm before the Mill River stripped it's topsoil away.

(Bodette) When they returned, they found that six of their nine acres of land was gone --- washed down stream.  And they knew they needed a new plan to get back in business:

(Wood-Beauchamp) "It won't be on this land. I don't think this land will ever be farmland again in our lifetime."

(Bodette) Wood-Beauchamp says CSA members, neighbors, friends, and perfect strangers have come by to offer help. And Kara Fitzgerald says they plan to channel that support into something new.

Courtesy Evening Song Farm
The top photo from Evening Song Farm was taken a little over one week before the flood. The bottom photo is the same field after the flood.
(Fitzgerald) "We're going to have a beach party and treasure hunt next week to dig out our tractor implements, and Ryan and I are getting jobs in town to keep ourselves afloat, and we're trying to figure out where we're going to grow next year."

(Bodette) The white farmhouse and red barn which sit above the fields and are safe. 

Inside the barn, volunteers are cleaning and bagging garlic, harvested before the storm, for an upcoming garlic festival.

Also safe are racks of onion, and crates of ripe tomatoes headed out to local restaurants.

A neighbor has offered greenhouse space and they're looking for land to lease. Fitzgerald says Cuttingsville turns out to be one of the best places to lose your farm. And she's grateful to the community, but she's still tired and confused:

(Fitzgerald) "You can't actually get worse than this, you can't. There's no land. I know a lot of people we've talked to and I've even seen pictures are like, the waters will recede, we'll come help you, we'll bring our excavators, we'll re-divert the river, but it's not, going to change.  The public property, the river, just eminent-domained my farm, and no one paid me for it, so I'm sort of pissed, but I don't think there's anything insurance can do. We just talked to our insurance company and they're so apologetic, they want to help us, but there's nothing they can do."

(Bodette) On the newly formed banks of the Mill River, she says they're out of tears, and can talk about their loss. And now they're looking to the future.

For VPR News, I'm Melody Bodette in Cuttingsville.

 

VPR/Melody Bodette
Volunteers get garlic ready for a garlic festival this weekend. The farm is trying to salvage what's left of the season, and are looking to lease land next year.

Evening Song Farm

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