Tom, Ann, and Lee Bird on the first day of the 2012 season before the drought. (Bryn Bird, via the Harvest Network)
Our pals in the Harvest Network have been busy this week helping us report on the devastating drought of 2012.
On Tuesday, Bryn Bird, a second-generation farmer in Granville, Ohio, quickly answered our query when we were helping NPR’s “All Things Considered” find folks affected by the terrible weather.
Bryn told Robert Siegel that her sweet corn, usually 7-feet-tall by this time, is just 3-feet high. She’s looking at a 100 percent loss, which will cost her family between $30,000 to $40,000, she said.
“We aren’t holding out too much hope.”
Bird’s Haven Farms, raises mostly sweet corn and black turtle beans and has more than 200 CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscriptions. Unfortunately, that means they don’t have crop insurance, which is limited to commodity crops.
Here’s what Bryn wrote to the Harvest Network:
The frustrating part is our inability to properly insure these direct-to-market crops. There are currently no working specialty crop insurance products out there for direct-to-market produce. If we were growing commodity corn we would easily be insured but we may not get any insurance payment and if we do we will only receive payment to cover the cost of the seed. With the 2012 Farm Bill happening it makes it even more frustrating hearing Congress ramp up commodity crop insurance programs and still not doing anything to protect food and local food systems and small family farmers.
Stephen Wright, another Harvest Network member, is also facing the terrible consequences of this drought. He told Harvest reporter Jeremy Bernfeld about the “agonizing process” of watching his crops burn up, day by day.
“It’s not something that just hits you one day like a hurricane and you go back out and see how bad it was,” Steven said. “It’s daily for quite a long time.”
Steven is not alone -- search #drought12 on Twitter and you'll see the devastation in maps and photos and first-hand reports. As Jeremy wrote:
Farmers throughout the country are having a rough go of it. Last week, the USDA declared drought-related disaster areas over 1,000 counties reaching through 26 states. A drought disaster can only be declared after an area has suffered through severe drought for eight consecutive weeks during growing season.
Drought is hammering farmers from Indiana south to Arkansas and into Missouri and again from western Kansas through Colorado and into Utah and Wyoming. About 80 percent of the contiguous U.S. is classified as being in drought status, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. This time last year, in the height of the heat season, just 37 percent of the country was battling drought.
Steven thinks he’ll lose about half of his crop. As for Bryn, she and her family are trying other options to stay in business. She told Robert Siegel that they are tripling their tomato production, which they are irrigating, and they are using hoop houses to extend their season. She also hopes to take on more CSA clients come fall.
Her drought-mitigation plan, summed up in three words?