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This week's flooding caused significant crop loss for some NH farmers

Courtesy of Tom Hasselman
A flooded field at Pete's Stand in Walpole, NH, earlier this week.

This week’s flooding left some New Hampshire farms looking more like lakes than agricultural land.

“One of my fields was under eight feet of water,” said John Janiszyn, owner of Pete’s Stand in Walpole. “My son and my wife went canoeing on one of our fields.”

Some New Hampshire farms located on the flood plains of the Connecticut River and its tributaries were submerged under multiple feet of water, which led to widespread crop loss.

Kristen Gowen, owner of Tamarack Farm in Acworth, grows hay on the banks of the Cold River. She estimates that the floods destroyed about half of her crop. The water swept up a few of her recently-harvested hay bales, which each weigh around 1,200 pounds.

“It’s literally your hard work and your money just floating downstream, and there is nothing you can do about it,” she said.

Gowen will have to reseed the damaged fields and won’t get a saleable crop until next year, which she says will take a massive financial toll.

Increasingly erratic weather was affecting her business prior to this week, and she was already anticipating a slim harvest due to the year’s heavy rainfall, she said.

Janiszyn said that about 12 to 15 acres of his farmland were underwater, which he estimates will lead to a crop loss of up to 20%. He was “shocked” by the severity of the flood, saying that previous hurricanes had not hurt his fields as much as this week’s flooding did.

Farmers said that having crops exposed to flood water creates food safety risks, such as the possible spread of E.coli bacteria.

Janiszyn is worried that the flood water could have exposed his crops to Phytophthora capisci, a bacteria that can ravage vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, squash, and pumpkins and is spread through equipment carrying contaminated soil.

“Those fields are going to have that disease now in it probably for the next 10 years,” he said.

Farmers more inland and on higher ground generally avoided flooding. Only two inches of rain fell at Picadilly Farm in Winchester, according owner Bruce Wooster. Seeing the damage his fellow farmers are dealing with, however, left him discouraged about the future of the profession in the face of climate change, he said.

“As a farmer, I kind of feel a sense of foreboding,” he said.

For growers in the region, this event follows a spring that had two crippling crop loss events triggered by abnormal weather.

Similar damage has been seen across the region, including in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and, most severely, Vermont.