Cooking up assistance for flood victims
By Deanna Fox
June 20, 2013
Fields brimming with vegetables and grazing cattle were a symbol of Schoharie County. In 2011, those images were replaced with scenes of devastation. When Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee battered New York, the Schoharie Creek basin became ground zero for flood damage. Muddy water infiltrated every corner of the valley and small farms were particularly susceptible.
“We were evacuated in the flooding. We went up the hill and watched the water rise,” saysRichard Ball, owner of Schoharie Valley Farms. “Once it hit the historic high mark from 1996, we thought we’d be OK. But it kept rising. And that’s when we knew we were in trouble, that we were going to lose all of our crop.”
According to the USDA, agricultural activities in Schoharie County are now on target to surpass pre-Irene levels; however, dozens of families remain displaced from their homes and farms.
Support is still needed to bring Schoharie County back to its prime. “The biggest struggle has been keeping the message out to the public so they understand that real recovery is long, emotionally difficult, and financially expensive,” says Sarah Goodrich, executive director of Schoharie Area Long Term (SALT).
SALT was developed in the storms’ aftermath to bring together government, education, faith-based, and social service agencies from across Schoharie and Northern Greene counties. The goal of SALT is to create an effective long-term, sustainable infrastructure while also providing recovery services throughout the affected area.
The Albany Chefs’ Food and Wine Festival — the group behind the Wine and Dine for the Arts festival each January — has teamed up with SALT. “Part of our mission is to promote and advocate for sustainable agriculture,” says Michelle Hines Abram, a founding member of chefs group.
The Albany Chefs’ Food and Wine Festival will continue to promote Schoharie’s recovery with the Bounty of the County dinner and art auction on June 29 at The Carrot Barn, part of Ball’s Schoharie Valley Farms. Area chefs will come together to prepare a six-course meal using ingredients from Schoharie County farms.
Farms are the backbone of the food industry, and allowing chefs to hear stories of post-flooding struggle and success bridges an industry gap. “People have the impression that there is nothing to come to the area for. The opposite is definitely true,” Goodrich says. “Our farmland is healthy, and our farmers are busy with crops and animals trying to recoup their losses.”
Tickets for the event can be purchased online, and proceeds will go to SALT to help farms and families return to a state of normalcy. This cannot happen without neighborly assistance.
“That’s the serendipity of the disaster,” says Ball. “Everyone pitches in to help each other out. Farmers from other parts of the state offered products to us and said, ‘Just pay us back when you can.'”
Bounty of the County to Benefit SALT
Presented by the Albany Chefs’ Food and Wine Festival
When: 5 p.m. reception; 6 p.m. dinner, Saturday, June 29
Where: The Carrot Barn, 5605 state Route 30, Schoharie
Details: Six courses featuring the Signature Chefs and Rising Stars of the Albany Chefs’ Food and Wine Festival; live music and dancing, silent auction
Tickets: $150 honorary committee; $125 regular gala; $90 junior gala (younger than 35)