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Recent Heavy Rainfall Floods Farms and Residential Gardens, Increases Possibility of Blight on Certain Crops

By Mark S. Kenna

July 8, 2013. Because of the massive amount of rain over the past few weeks, flooded farms and gardens cause alarm for crop lost and the increased possibility for disease.

Photo courtesy of Amy Fiedler
Photo courtesy of Amy Fiedler

This has been a challenging year for growers, Richard Boylan an agricultural area agent with Watauga County Cooperative Extension said, adding that unusually high rain totals so far bring the threat of disease.

One farm in Western Watauga County has already been diagnosed with late blight, a fungal disease that spreads though the air.  If crops are not treated preventively, then late blight can ruin an entire field in a matter of days. The disease starts out as brown water soap spots on the leaves of potatoes and tomatoes. After turning black, the leaves die.

Boylan, who has been working for the Extension since 2001 has not seen a growing season like this before. He added that the “disease pressure” in the area would have an impact.

But it’s not just fungal diseases that are putting strain on farmers, the rain is adding to the stress.

According to Ray’s Weather Center, the total rainfall in Boone for this month is at 10.9 inches. This is almost double the amount of rain in the entire month of July last year, and this is only the first week.

Springhouse Farms in Watauga County is an example of the water damage farmers are currently facing.

“It is just wiping us out,” Amy Fiedler, owner of Springhouse Farms, said. “Now, we’re trying to fight disease and trying to save plants.  It’s just too wet to replant, this is the hardest season we have ever had.”

Five solid days of rain and an overflowing culvert across the street has drowned almost all of Fiedler’s crops. She has been working non-stop to try and drain her fields by digging ditches. But now she is worrying about early and late blight affecting her crops.

“I have never felt so hopeless and overpowered by nature,” Fiedler said. “It’s amazing how two to three months of hard work can be wiped away so quickly.”

Springhouse Farms is one of the dozen farms that contribute to the High Country Community Supported Agriculture.  Families or individuals buy shares of food for 20 weeks. The pricing ranges from $300 for a half share to $600 for a whole share. 

Share members are not going to lose out on their shares because the High Country CSA can shift around suppliers, Elliot Rhodes, coordinator for High Country CSA, said. However what is offered to share members will have to change, which is part of eating seasonally.

“For myself as a farmer, we’re having an incredibly tough year,” Hillary Wilson, farmer at Maverick Farms, another contributor to High Country CSA, said.

Photo by Ken Ketchie
Photo by Ken Ketchie

As for backyard gardens, like the farms, the rain is also flooding them.  

The best thing people can do is to be sure there is proper drainage in their garden and use fungicides as a preventative measure, Boylan said.