Warwick Valley Farm Aid 2011 expected to raise more than $50,000

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:30

While community effort doubles the original goal, area farmers faces millions in losses Warwick — The goal was $25,000 but organizers are now reporting that the Warwick Valley Farm Aid 2011 fund raiser, held on Sunday, September 25, may have raised more than $50,000. The final tally will occur after additional donations and T-shirt sales at Applefest, October 2, are included. All proceeds will be distributed equally among those Warwick farmers who applied online for assistance. Warwick Valley Farm Aid 2011 was organized earlier this month to benefit local farmers who were severely affected by Hurricane Irene and its subsequent flooding. Warwick’s farms in Pine Island and Florida incurred millions of dollars in crop losses. And many of these farmers had suffered the loss of all or most of their crops, which means they lost their entire investment and income for the year. Although the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared Orange County a “disaster area,” there is nothing in either the federal or state programs that covers crop losses. The United States Department of Agriculture offers crop insurance but many local farmers opt out of this program because of high premiums, complexity and low payouts. Cheryl Rogowski, a Pine Island farmer and restaurant owner, suggested that Paul Caskey, a member of the Warwick Valley School Board, and others, organize Warwick Valley Farm Aid 2011, a fund raiser for the benefit of local farmers who suffered losses. Dr. Raymond Bryant, superintendent of the Warwick Valley School District, offered the use of the high school and the Warwick Valley Chamber of Commerce absorbed the fees that enabled concert ticket sales to be purchased online with a credit card. “I had hundreds of people helping me,” said Caskey, “and my core group and committee heads were of such quality that they needed little direction. I was comfortable that they would perform each task in such a manner that it would be done right. And it was all accomplished in three weeks.” In addition to the evening concert, the Farm Aid event featured an open house with food vendors, who donated their profits, musical entertainment, face painting and a clown for the kids, hay rides, a petting zoo and other activities for the community. Volunteers sold T-shirts and there was a well-organized silent auction, which included the works of local artists. “We had well over a thousand people attend,” said Caskey. “The vendors even ran out of food. But the most important thing,” he added, “was that the farmers told us that they used to feel their area was like a step child in the Town of Warwick. But, after this event and turnout, they know that’s not true. Warwick is just a great community.” 'I know we are not alone’ I would like to take a moment to thank all those that were involved in Warwick Farm Aid. My husband was one of the farmers who was effected by Hurricanes Irene and Lee. We lost our main crop - onions - along with our market crops of greens, corn, potatoes, squash and other seasonal vegetables. This has been hard for my husband as well as many other farmers in the area. Farming doesn’t just happen overnight. The crops are planned in late winter, soils tested, seeds ordered, starter seeds planted in greenhouses and then transplanted into fields. Then there is the constant care; tilling, weeding, watering, pest management care. Many nights out late or up early, waiting for Mother Nature to give you the proper combination of weather for a great crop - or at least a good one. For my husband it was missed baseball games for his son, soccer games for his daughter, along with time that he could have spent teaching our youngest to ride his bike. This time will not come back and neither will the crops. The government’s only answer is low-interest loans. We do not need any more loans. We needed our crops to pay the production loans we already have. But our town and community pulled together to offer us some help, some relief, some piece of mind. And for this a heart full thank you. I know we are not alone and every farmer has a story. Kristie Madura JADS Farm Market/John D. Maura Farms Pine Island Send donations to: Community 2000, Inc. Attn: Farm Aid 2011 PO Box 1270 Warwick, NY 10990