Florence wreaked her own kind of havoc on farmers across eastern North Carolina, particularly here in Sampson and in neighboring Duplin, where tobacco, corn, soybeans and cotton took a significant hit.
And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the livestock losses experienced. Just outside of Roseboro, for example, a poultry farmer was busy today cleaning up houses destroyed by the powerful hurricane. It is estimated that losses at that one farm could total as many as 50,000 chickens.
In other parts of the county, farmers are desperately worrying about cattle they cannot get to because of flooded roads and fields. Facebook posts abound from farmers worried about their animals.
But despite the devastation and the unknowns Florence has left, it is the resiliency of farmers that is being heralded, men and women who prepared for days, some weeks, ahead of the storm and who, today, are picking up the pieces and moving forward.
“There have been a lot of challenges, that’s for sure,” said Chad Herring, director of N.C. Farm Families. Herring, from Duplin County, said farmers did the very best they could to prepare in advance of the storm, gathering as much out of their fields as humanly possible.
“This storm created a lot of work for us before it hit, and it has created a lot of work for us now, but farmers are very diligent. Farmers are resilient. This is a challenge, a struggle, but we work together to make the best out of a bad situation.”
Eileen Coite, director of Sampson’s Cooperative Extension Office, said that she knew there was crop damage, but how much was yet to be determined.
“Our farmers were as prepared as they could be,” Coite said. “Of that I am certain. There have been issues, losses, but we aren’t even sure what they are right now. Many of my agents are working at shelters; others can’t get in. The roads are such we really can’t begin to check the damage.”
Crops, perhaps, were dealt the most severe blow from Florence here and in Duplin. Farmers in both counties noted that the tobacco crop still in the field had received significant damage. Much the same is true of unpicked corn.
Soybeans were beaten severely by the strong winds, their leaves ripped off and plants twisted. And cotton plants were standing in water, the cotton strung out of the boll by the storm.
One of the most talked about issues regarding farmers and Florence centers around hog farms and the lagoons, but Herring said there had been very few major issues.
“Of the 3,000 lagoons in the state, there have only been 12 issues. That is a testament to how well prepared our farmers are, how vigilant they are. When 99.6 percent of our lagoons have held up, that’ tells a positive story.”
Farmers, Herring said, did not abandon their farms nor their livestock during the storm.
“I heard just today of one farmer who stayed two days with his pigs, protecting them from the storm. That’s commitment,” Herring stressed.
In other cases, families banded together to help one another get crops out of the field or clean up after a tornado, spawned by the hurricane, left damage on another farm.
“Stories of farmers and their families helping their neighbors, that’s what it’s all about. It’s what gets us through these difficult, challenging times,” Herring said.
Coite agreed. “This storm has taken a toll. How much of a toll we aren’t sure, but one thing is certain, our farmers will pull together and stay strong.”
Sherry Matthews can be reached at 910-249-4612 or by email at [email protected]