Boulder County Farmers Hit Hard by Recent Hail Storms

They’re really on the edge of possibly going out of business.” — Deb Trevor – BVSD Food Service Manager.

 

2018 has seen a number of hail storms coming through the Front Range which have significantly impacted local farmers. From damage to infrastructure – with hail breaking green house glass and punching holes in matting which is laid down to prevent weeds – to damage to crops.

Listen to Mark Guttridge talk about the impact of the recent hail storm on his farm:

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    Boulder County Farmers Hit Hard by Recent Hail Storms KGNU News

 

In spring some hail storms stopped early production. In June, several local farmers lost early crops, but the most recent storm on Saturday August  18th has really devastated some local farms. Mark Guttridge of Ollin Farms in Longmont says he has lost nearly 80% of his pepper crop as a result of the most recent hail storm.

“We’re looking to losing 80% of our pepper crop, 80% of our tomato crop. Other crops survived because they’re in the ground and are not as susceptible. But the loss is in the tens of thousands of dollars for the farm. So we’re trying to figure out how to rebound from that.”

Mark Guttridge examines the damage to a pepper plant. “As a farmer, the economic thing is one thing but it’s really hard on an emotional, spiritual level to have to come out here every day and clean off all this carnage off your babies, just to try to figure out what’s going on in the future with this plant.”

The lack of crop insurance available to small market farmers has compounded the problem says Guttridge.  “Crop insurance is through the US Department of Agriculture and they’re very good at thinking  in terms of one crop and acres and acres of it, and they have policies for things like that. But for the small market farmers who are growing 40 different crops, they don’t have any kind of policies, blanket policies like that. The only policies they have for vegetable farmers are for someone that grows 5 or 10 acres of just tomatoes, they can get a tomato policy that can cover it. But it’s even by variety…so here we’re growing 10 different varieties of tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, field tomatoes, heirlooms, all these different ones, so that we’d have to have different individual policies on all of those, so there’s nothing economically affordable for market farmers that are trying to do a diversity of crops.”

 

Ollin Farms has set up a 2018 hail relief fund. Several other local farms have established similar online fundraising campaigns.

Chef Anne Cooper of BVSD examines hail damaged peppers from Ollin Farms that will be used in the salad bar at local schools.

The crop destruction as a result of the hail storms has a downstream effect. The Boulder Valley School District  prioritizes produce from local farmers. Chef Ann Cooper says the school district currently works with 9 local farmers and last year purchased 80,000lbs of local produce plus about 150,000 lbs of regional meat and chicken.

“With that we’re really able to work with the local farmers, to bring in local produce, to showcase local produce to our kids. It’s a great relationship, we’re supporting the  farmers, we send kids out to the farms to do farm field trips, farmers come into the cafeterias.”

 

Listen to the report on BVSD’s relationship with local farmers:

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    Boulder County Farmers Hit Hard by Recent Hail Storms KGNU News

 

Deb Trevor, food service manager with the school district, is in the process of calculating the impact of the storms on food service at the school district. “The biggest impact for us is that we of course aren’t going to have as much local produce to purchase. We have other means where we can purchase produce, but it’s not local, it’s not organic and we’re not supporting our local farmers.”  Trevor says she has personally heard from several of their local farm suppliers and they’re really hurting from the recent storms. “They’re really on the edge of possibly going out of business. ”

Trevor says the school district will continue to support local farmers who are recovering from the recent hail storms. “We are absolutely happy to take produce that is imperfect if the quality is good, the flavor is good. So this is an example of what we try to do to help our local farmers out.”

Chef Ann Cooper says that the community as a whole needs to support local farmers at this time, particularly when shopping for produce. “It’s so easy to do things with imperfect food. If the tomatoes are a little over ripe or look a little damaged, you can make tomato sauce, you can make gazpacho at this time of year, there are so many things you can do. I think we need to think outside this perfect image of a vegetable or fruit and think what’s delicious and what can we do with it and how do we make sure there’s local agriculture in our community?”

 

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    Boulder County Farmers Hit Hard by Recent Hail Storms KGNU News

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