Horticulture and Hurricanes

August 31, 2011 at 5:09 pm (Uncategorized)

Hurricane Irene’s wrath has left a good chunk of the east coast in disarray. Few people understand the horticultural side of such weather events. North Carolina for example has a $2 billion (yes, that’s a “b”) wholesale horticulture industry! Everything from Christmas trees to greenhouses to vegetable farms is included. There is no doubt that many of these businesses were damaged or even destroyed in the hurricane, leading to huge ripple effects across the country. As a further example several wholesale specialty plant producers are located in North Carolina. When their inventory and crops are damaged or lost, many other growers across the country are affected. (Read a bit more about the North Carolina Horticultural Council at cals.ncsu.edu/hort_sci/growers/index.php.)

Further north in Baltimore, my son had started his little urban farm on the balcony of his apartment. All the planters had to be taken inside until the wind and rain had passed. And so, even small producers felt the effects.

Seeds of lettuce, kale, carrots, peas, and spinach had just been planted when Irene roared through.

Not only were producers affected, but now tree and landscape maintenance companies are swamped with requests. All those downed trees have to be cut up and removed somehow.

Horticulture in Vermont is not as large in total as it is in North Carolina, but all the flooding and damaged roads will impact horticultural crop production and sales for months to come. The state has a very active berry and vegetable production industry, likely heavily damaged in the hurricane’s aftermath. The total horticulture industry’s value in Vermont in 2009 was about $61 million (the latest figure available through the National Agricultural Statistics Service), with fruits and vegetables alone valued at $33.5 million. Greenhouse and nursery crops added $27.5 million. Big industries indeed.
All the states in between North Carolina and Vermont have significant horticulture industries and all have undoubtedly been impacted. Let’s hope the rest of the 2011 hurricane season is quiet.

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