By Leslie Marchand of Whitehurst Heritage Farms and TOFGA Region 5 Director
Historic floods have affected a large portion of our state this spring (as was the case in 2015 as well). As a farmer, rancher or gardener, you know the devastating impact a natural disaster can have – not only for you, your family and your home but also for your livestock, your crops and your livelihood.
You prepare for the possibility of a major weather event, you watch the forecast and you respond with quick thinking and action in the moment. You make decisions for the survival & safety of all involved and you weather the storm. News crews, loved ones and concerned citizens come out of the woodwork during and shortly after the storm to help.
But what happens after the storm? Time goes by, people go on with their day-to-day lives and the media moves on to the next breaking news story. The same thing happens after the loss of a loved one or any tragic event in life. So how do you keep moving forward? As my daughter Marisa says, “Texas farmers persevere through flood, sweat and tears.” That’s the truth. I would love to give a medal of honor to all farmers who use their strength, determination and courage to clean up, put the pieces back together and start over.
We were personally hit hard at Whitehurst Heritage Farms by the floods at our Cypress location in April and our Frydek location in May. We are eternally grateful to all of the people who stepped up to help us. We have several high school and college students who work at our farm. During the April flood in Cypress the local schools were closed for a week so our workers were available to help out more. They helped us rescue over a thousand chickens and wrangle pigs through flood waters to move them all to safety on high ground. During the Memorial Day weekend flood along the Brazos River people offered a ride in their boat to take feed to the animals until the water receded. We received numerous calls from friends and supporters offering to help with clean up and repairs. We received financial gifts from a few family members and collaborators. Customers have purchased additional products to help defray the cost of our losses.
Long after the storm has passed, the recovery efforts continue. As a small business, you know the amount of time and energy it takes to run your operation when times are good. After a flood or natural disaster, the labor and costs are multiplied several times over. There are resources available for flood relief through several sources. These are great offerings but they can be limited in their scope, have short deadlines and add to the already long to-do list. Links with details, deadlines and documentation requirements for several of those programs are listed at the end of this article.
Being a food producer takes a high level of passion, commitment and perseverance every day. Challenges can bring about more work, but they can also strengthen your resolve to keep moving forward after the storm. As we head into the heat of the summer, the Texas weather changes and we are already facing drought-like conditions in some areas. To all of you out there working hard day after day, thank you for continuing to provide food for your family and your community.
Follow Whitehurst Farms on Twitter to see lots of videos of the flood and what they had to do to care for their animals
USDA FSA ELAP – Emergency Livestock Assistance Program
USDA FSA LIP – Livestock Indemnity Program
TX Dept. of Ag. STAR fund