After Irene, N.Y. Farmers Recover
GUY RAZ, HOST:
Nearly three months ago, Hurricane Irene tore through the eastern sea board, leaving several dozen communities badly damaged by extreme wind and flood waters. Just after the storm in August we heard from one of the hardest hit areas - Middleburgh, N.Y., which is about an hour west of Albany. That's where we met Jim and Cindy Barber. The Barbers run a farm that's been in the family since the 1850s. Hurricane Irene flooded their house and devastated their crops. They lost much of their fall harvest, as Jim Barber described at the time.
JIM BARBER: We have Swiss chard completely destroyed, the late tomato crop completely destroyed, broccoli, cauliflower - unharvestable. The crops are still there, but because they've been submerged we won't be able to harvest those.
RAZ: Well, we wanted to check back in with the Barbers to see how they're doing and they join us now. Jim and Cindy Barber, welcome to the program.
CINDY BARBER: Thank you for having us.
BARBER: Thank you. Glad to be here.
RAZ: Take us back to August when the storm hit. What kind of damage did the flooding do to your farm and were you able to salvage the rest of the harvest?
BARBER: Well, the day of the flood we were up on the hillside at my sister's house, so we could watch the season ending for us as the flood covered the fields. We had actually about three acres of crops that managed to stay above the floodwaters on the small rise in the field, so we had a few peppers, tomatoes and eggplant that we could harvest for a few weeks after that. But really, half of our harvest for the year was lost in that one day.
RAZ: I remember from Jeff Brady's report, Cindy, that he described a creek near your house that became a river almost a mile wide across.
BARBER: Absolutely. It was amazing. At about 2:00 in the afternoon, as we were up on the hillside watching, the water from the Schoharie Creek swelled over its banks and within about 20 minutes, it covered the whole floor of the valley, which at our farm, is about a mile wide.
RAZ: And that, of course, destroyed your home to some extent, right?
BARBER: Yes. At the time, we didn't realize that.
BARBER: Right. We had started out expecting that we could fix the house up, move back in. But as we got farther into it and saw the extent of damage and repairs that would need to take place, we decided it was probably not the best place to reinvest that money and decided the better option was to start over somewhere else.
RAZ: Where are you guys living right now?
BARBER: Yeah, well, we're living with my mother.
BARBER: In the original farmhouse. And a sister of his is also living in the same house because she's working on repairing her home. She will be moving in her children and Jim's and my kids. There could be, like, up to 10 of us in the house over the holidays.
RAZ: Wow. And, of course, you are still on the property, but I wonder - how long do you think it will take for you to rebuild your house or to rebuild a house for you?
BARBER: It will be a while. I mean, we won't even begin the process until next year some time. I guess, you know, we'd always thought about having a house up on the hill at some point, so we kind of - so now we're there.
RAZ: Cindy, the church in town was also badly damaged. And I understand that your niece is planning to get married next summer and she was hoping and you were all hoping that she would be able to get married at the altar in the church. Will it be ready in time?
BARBER: Well, it's amazing. This past weekend, there were 45 volunteers in the church hall for what has been repair, trying to get at least one part of the church in order so that we can just start having services again. Our neice is getting married on June 30th and who knows – we don't know if there will be pews in there. It doesn't matter, standing room only. We would just love to have that happen. But, my goodness, all of the volunteers that have come from out of the area - that's been the story in the whole community. Folks just show up and the magic happens, and then they're gone.
RAZ: That's Jim and Cindy Barber of Middleburgh, New York, talking about the long recovery from Hurricane Irene. Jim, Cindy, thank you so much and good luck this year.
BARBER: Thank you.
BARBER: Thank you for revisiting our beautiful Schoharie Valley.
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