Plant It Forward

[Letter from PIFF President] Hurricane Harvey Recovery Update

 Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Dear Plant It Forward Supporters,

What an exhausting week and a half it’s been — thank you for the outpouring of support you’ve shown our farmers! The PIF family and I hope y’all are drying out and able to get back to some semblance of normalcy. Fortunately, the farmers and their immediate families fared relatively well — none experienced flooding inside their homes and only one vehicle was damaged. With the exception of one farmer having to remotely orchestrate a frantic high water rescue for friends, it would seem they were largely unscathed, property and safety-wise.

The farms, however, looked so sad when we were able to get to them last Tuesday. Sugar cane, corn stalks, and papayas were blown over; arugula was completely decimated; sweet potatoes were rotted; and most of the eggplants, peppers, and newly-planted fall tomatoes looked miserable. But there were bright spots: roselle, incredibly, looked as if there hadn’t even been a storm and Malabar spinach and bush okra both looked happy and healthy. So if you’re a fan of African greens, you’re in luck! If you’re not a fan, well…give us a few weeks. In the meantime, we’ll roll out some CulinaryCorps and Farmer/Chef Guy-approved recipes for those greens.

The okra was windblown but otherwise doesn’t appear to have been damaged; in fact, Farmers Sarment and Christine were able to harvest a total of 100 pounds(!) on Wednesday and suggested we donate it in support of hurricane shelter operations. Through the magic of Twitter, we quickly connected with Sugar & Rice’s David Leftwich who was working at the Midtown Kitchen Collective with Chef Richard Knight and Urban Harvest’s Tyler Horne who, along with an extensive team of volunteer cooks, were turning out thousands of meals a day. The cooks used the okra to make gumbo which was served to first responders. In response to the okra donation, Lisa Seger of Blue Heron Farm redirected cash donations she had received to Sarment and Christine so they could be compensated for their okra. It was just one of thousands of examples of Houstonians looking out for one another this past week and a half.

The sun and pollinators were back out by early last week, along with the farmers, doing their part to help. On Saturday, more than 50 volunteers helped the farmers clean up their farms and prepare beds for new seeding. The farmers have wasted no time in planting and already we’re seeing radishes, mustard greens, and collards sprouting. Carrots and beets, among other crops, are being seeded this week, as well. Next steps on the farms include restarting transplant nurseries and upgrading drainage infrastructure.

Our farmers are no strangers to adversity and they will weather the Hurricane Harvey setbacks with grace. We know that we are so much luckier than some area farms and our thoughts are with them (see: Texas Farmer Rancher Disaster Relief and Gundermann Acres-Harvey Relief). We thank our CSA farm share subscribers for your patience as the farmers hustle to get the farms back in order and replanted — we expect to be able to provide limited shares beginning Saturday, September 9th.

Thank all of you for your messages of support, social media love, and recovery donations.

Root for Houston,

Liz and the PIFF team


P.S. — Ways you can help.