Humberto hits farmers hard
From autumn seedlings to Christmas carrots and poinsettias, Hurricane Humberto's close pass this week left farmers and nurseries counting the cost.
The battering on Wednesday night destroyed greenhouses around the island — and low rainfall meant extra salt damage to plants.
Supplies of everything from cucumbers to bananas have been hit, while farmers rush to batten down ahead of next week's anticipated hit from Hurricane Jerry.
Tom Wadson, of Wadson's Farm in Southampton, declared the impact “horrendous, devastating”, with casualties ranging from 2,000 tomato plants to beets and carrots.
He said: “Everything in the field is basically toast, and the roof came off our greenhouse. We got a hard hit.”
Cassava, another Christmas staple, managed to survive because plants had been topped in advance, but Mr Wadson said his farm had “a couple of tons” of paw paws on the ground.
Nearby on Luke's Pond Road, Warren Brown at Bermuda Gardens reported one greenhouse was “flattened”.
The island's top supplier of English cucumbers would take “a couple of months” to recover from the loss, he said.
“We lost about half our crop, which we supply for the whole island, so we are going to run short next week,” Mr Brown added.
“This storm had a real sting in it, and it caught us. It also got bigger as it rolled over us. But every time we rebuild, we make it stronger.” Both farmers said the drench of salt left by Humberto's comparatively light rains had hurt vegetation.
Yesterday, Mr Brown, still without electricity, was keeping his hydroponics going with generators.
He said: “Belco has been busy elsewhere — we used to get priority as a food producer, but over the years we've been forgotten.”
Brighton Nurseries in Devonshire, which reported online that its houseplant shed had been “mangled”, had discounted the plants yesterday to 50 per cent.
Greenhouse damage hit Amaral Farms in Devonshire, according to Anthony Amaral.
Mr Amaral joked: “You can't even give away avocados right now. They all came down.”
Early carrots and Christmas carrots were “gone”, Mr Amaral said, and late crops such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower had been set back perhaps three months.
He added: “Bananas are worse. That's been set back a year, year and a half. Farming is like Vegas — we roll dice with the weather.”
Some of the farm's seedlings, including the poinsettias popular for Christmas, had been secured from harm in a stable.
But Julie Greaves, the manager of Aberfeldy Nurseries in Paget, said the business's Somerset greenhouse was hard hit.
Aberfeldy lost large numbers of poinsettias as well as vegetable seedling in demand with the end of summer.
Ms Greaves said: “The storm took most of the roof off. Nobody realised how bad it was going to be — there's a lot of damage. It's too late in the year to start growing another crop of poinsettias. People love them, but it is what it is. Obviously, we will plant something different and try to offer other things.”
She added: “It's the vegetable seedlings that people really want now. Because we don't have a roof on the greenhouses, we have the sun burning what plants we have left.
“We just need to get them rebuilt, which isn't easy. They're very technical; you can't just put one together.”
Not far from the Aberfeldy greenhouses, Westover Farm on Daniel's Head is one of the island's three main dairies.
Richard Bascome, the general manager, counted the farm lucky: there was no damage, although the hurricane disruption threw the milking schedule into disarray.
“A lot of people are going to have to start from scratch with their crops,” Mr Bascome said yesterday.
“The storm was stronger than a lot of people expected. What can you do? Let's get ready for the next one.”