It has been a long, hard year since Hurricane Harvey made landfall and devastated the coastal Texas farming community. Many farmers are still working through recovery efforts and will be for quite some time – flooded fields, property and equipment damage, and acres upon acres of lost crops will require years of work to come back from, if at all.
Garrett Gundermann of Gundermann Acres in Wharton, TX, knows this firsthand— his 500-acre property was flooded with 22 inches of water, destroying 75% of his crops (See photos). “We lost over $400,000 and it’s gonna take years to get caught back up. We’re barely keeping our head above water since then,” said Gundermann.
Small agricultural farms, unlike large-scale production farms, don’t have access to property insurance and even if they do qualify, farms can’t sustain enough gross income to afford the premiums. When a devastating event like Harvey happens, farmers are left to start at zero without any safety net.
“We got absolutely no help from the government for anything. We don’t qualify for their programs. I applied for as much as I could but got denied in all. As far as crop insurance, we can’t get any for the vegetables where we are. If we raised corn or cotton we could and we could have qualified for all kinds of money,” said Gundermann.
All that Gundermann can do is keep moving forward by building better and smarter so that when a weather event like this happens again (and it will happen again) the farm will be better prepared, even if only by a little bit.
“We’re trying to do dirt work so that all the fields drain better. But it takes time and money, both which I’m short on! The hurricane wasn’t so bad- it was the Colorado river flooding everything around us that got us. There’s really nothing we can do. I’m in the process of raising my mom’s house that got flooded so that it won’t happen again.
If there’s one positive thing that resulted from Harvey, it was the showing of Texan spirit after the storm. Gundermann himself saved 40 people from flood conditions by rescuing them on his tractor. “We all came together after Harvey. It’s a shame it takes a disaster like Harvey but it showed how Texans really are. We all came together and helped each other out during the storm and still are today.”
The water may be gone, but the floods are still rising on our farmers with mounting costs that will take years to recover from. Gone may be the days of the donation websites for hurricane victims, but continuing to buy into your local food economy will help support farmers like Gundermann. This ensures a reliable stream of funds to keep their operations going and a support system for resources when they need it most. It is only with the support of community members like you that Texas will continue to be a leading example of a strong local food system- one farm at a time.
Farm Photos by Laura Hajar Photography