In late August, the cities of the Eastern Seaboard prepared for the worst as Hurricane Irene swirled up from the Caribbean like a Biblical scourge sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. New York City was forecast as a focal point of damage. Floodwater was expected to cover the bronze horns of the Bowling Green Bull outside the Stock Exchange. The Naked Cowboy built a raft to perform on while tourists floated by in Times Square. Heeding the Boy Scout motto (“Be Prepared”), Mayor Bloomberg shut down the nation’s largest mass transit system for the first time. Residents in low-lying areas were urged to evacuate. News cameramen licked their lips and prepared to shoot riveting footage of bewildered New Yorkers trudging through hip-deep water on Canal Street, heading to higher ground like the haggard masses of New Orleans after Katrina. (Of course, New Yorkers would be wearing snazzy black rain gear bought especially for the occasion at Eastern Mountain Sports.)
In the Hudson Valley, we were also getting ready to be swamped—just without the fanfare. Living quiet existences of wholesome fulfillment far from the morally questionable activities of urbanites, we had nothing to fear—like child brides. The day before the storm hit, I saw people buying groceries at the supermarket as they would before a snowstorm. (Question: Why does everyone stock up on milk, eggs, and bread in the face of an emergency? Is there some proverb that prescribes French toast as a fitting meal for a disaster?) We schlepped all the lawn furniture into the shed. We moved our cars out from under menacing trees. And then we waited for the wind and the rain.
God must have been asleep at the wheel of the hurricane because New York City was spared and we got a wallop. The power went off, the sump pumps didn’t work, and there was plenty of water in the basement. And then Lee wet us down again less than two weeks later. Luckily, that was the worst of it for most of us. Except the farmers.
We don’t have lead features in Chronogram
per se, but certainly the most pertinent (and poignant) article in this issue is Peter Barrett’s report on the state of farms across the region that were flooded in the wake of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee (“No Farms, No Food,” page 80). Ulster County was declared an agricultural disaster zone. The devastation was on par with a one-hundred-year meteorological event: Estimates for the total damage range from $73 million to $1 billion across New York State. Three thousand acres of vegetables were ruined in Ulster County alone. Taliaferro Farms in New Paltz lost 80 percent of its crop. At RSK Farm in Prattsville—the true ground zero of the flooding damage from the recent storms—not only was there total crop loss, but “Potato Bob” Kiley lost all his topsoil as well. The Schoharie Creek rose and swept it all away, leaving only the bedrock underneath. (Before-and-after photos of RSK farm can be viewed at www.help-the-farm.org. You can also make a donation there, as Potato Bob is seeking to raise $150,000 to rebuild his farm.)
For those of us who care about farms, the agricultural apocalypse visited upon the Hudson Valley and Catskills is a call to arms. Farms are not just a scenic addition to the landscape but an integral part of our communities—primarily as sources of locally grown food whose provenance we can be sure of, but also as a robust sector of economic activity and a bulwark against development. As we go to press, the Republican-controlled House refuses to pass a disaster-relief bill adequate to this calamity. Hopefully by the time you read this, this country’s legislators will have come to their senses. If history is any judge, most likely they won't. Therefore, we’ve created a Farm Aid page at www.chronogram.com
with links to organizations collecting money for farmers, information about upcoming benefit events, and links to the farms themselves, many of which are selling shares for next year’s crop now. This money will allow farmers not only to buy seed for next year, but also to feed their families this winter. This is the time to put our money where our mouths are. Covers Show Redux
Following up on the smashing success of our “Chronogram
Covers” exhibition in February at the Art Society of Kingston, we’ll be mounting a show at Unison Arts Center this month in New Paltz, which will include 30 covers which were not shown in Kingston. The show runs October 2 through October 30. An opening reception will be held on Sunday, October 2 from 4-6pm. For more details, visit us on Facebook: ww.facebook.com/chronogram