As the waters slowly recede, residents of South Carolina will begin to assess the damage caused by the incredible amount of rain, severe winds, high tides and ultimately the record breaking flooding. For farmers across the state of South Carolina hard decisions will have to be made as they survey their fields and determine, what, if anything can be done to salvage their fall crops.
Few businesses are as vulnerable to natural disasters as farms; their inventory and assets are exposed to the elements, unable to move or evacuate. A flooding event like the one South Carolina farmer’s experienced this weekend can literally wash an entire business out to sea. For those not familiar with the day-to-day of farming it is important to understand that in order to grow healthy plants ready for market, farmers must plan their seasons well in advance by ordering fall seeds, inputs (fertilizer, minerals etc.) and materials (row cover, seed trays) while it is still summer. For vegetable farmers, plants are started in greenhouses weeks prior to planting, cover crop is mowed down and incorporated, fields are cultivated and bedded up, irrigation is laid out, fertilizer spread and plants transplanted or direct seeded. All of these steps happen well in advance of planting and are labor and equipment intensive, costing the farmer thousands of dollars and days spent working from sunrise to sunset. And this my friends, is exactly the point in the season in which our farmers founds themselves this weekend before an entire fall season’s worth of rain arrived in less than three days. Local farms are now looking at not only loss of their plants and destruction of their fields but road washouts, equipment and infrastructure damage.
The two most common questions I have received are: “Can’t they just re-plant?” and “Don’t farms have crop insurance?” which unfortunately both have very complicated answers.