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Vermont farmers reeling after widespread flooding ruined crops

Storms and floods couldn't have come at a worse time for farmers in New England, with the heart of produce growing season now lost.
Vermont farmers reeling after widespread flooding ruined crops
Posted at 5:37 PM, Jul 22, 2023

During this time of year, Dylan Zeitlyn is normally itemizing crop yields, but the only plants to count this year are dead.

"We're looking at the five owners after five months of work, zero to show for it, and no money to take home," he said.

His farm, Diggers' Mirth Collective, is shared by four other people. Sitting in the heart of Burlington, Vermont, its known for its high quality lettuce, fennel and carrots that restaurants salivate over and pay well to carry.

But the farm was in the center of extreme weather, which walloped the Northeast and causing immense flooding.

"Anything submerged in flood waters can't be sold," Zeitlyn said.

Now his crops are gone, and his operation has lost a growing season and the money that comes with it — typically between $200,000 to $250,000 according to Zeitlyn.

The farm is a member of a broader association called Intervale. The deluges overwhelmed the neighboring Winooski River, topping its banks and ruining all seven of the member operations.

"We have a disaster recovery fund, and the first payments go out in August," said Kelly Duggan with Intervale Center. "These are people who need to pay their employees. They need to eat. They need to care of living expenses."

The agriculture community is taking note.

SEE MORE: Northeast states warn floods have made their drinking water dangerous

Farmer Morgan Gold, who has not been affected by flooding, spent 24 hours live streaming to raise close to $30,000 for farmers cleaning up the devastation, since crop insurance and federal assistance will take time.

"Seeing just how much damage was done in the states, seeing how hard it hit, so many different farms here in Vermont I really did want to just kind of find a way to reach out and raise money and try to help them," Gold said.

As of Saturday, the state's agriculture department says about 200 Vermont farmers have reported more than 9,400 acres in crop damage.

"On the produce side, it hit right when the products are heading to farmers markets, to farm stands, to supermarkets," said Anson Tebbetts, secretary of Vermont's Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.

It's not just Vermont feeling the pain.

Tony Botticello, a farmer in Glastonbury, Connecticut, says flooding destroyed 80% of his crops.

"The timing couldn't be worse because we just started harvesting, and we can't really go back and replant corn because from the time you plant it until the time you pick it is 90 days," he said.

Back in the Green Mountain state, Zeitlyn says in his 30 years of planting there, climate change is altering how he thinks about the farm.

"It's starting to feel like it's not just our risk that we're taking on, but it's becoming societies risk to take on what's gonna happen to agriculture in all of these fertile river valleys," he said.

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