Agriculture Secretary Nilsestuen: Buy local to support farmers affected by the floods

Contact: Robin Engel 608-224-5002 or Teresa Cuperas 608-224-5101

MADISON – Recent floods have hit more than corn and soybeans. Growers who market to local food consumers also report flooded fields and potential losses. But their overriding message to consumers is “Keep buying locally. Local farmers need your support more than ever.”

“Rains have hit hard Wisconsin’s direct marketing vegetable growers–those selling at farmers markets, local restaurants and retailers, and CSA’s. Many are assessing damages with significant crop losses experienced. Many will have to replant, there is still time, but many unknowns remain about the season ahead and the prospects for recovery. Farmers need support from consumers to buy what they produce. You can do that by buying local whenever you have the choice,” said Secretary Rod Nilsestuen, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Consumers can visit to find a directory of farmers markets, local food businesses, and farmers who sell direct.

Following is a quick snapshot of the impact of the floods on local food providers:

Pinehold Gardens, located in Oak Creek just outside of Milwaukee, got more than 12 inches of rain. Most of their fields were under 2 feet of water and they lost the majority of their spring crops. They operate a CSA. Their message to consumers of local foods is to keep the faith. “If we look on the bright side and don’t get anymore rain, things could work out. There was a dent in the spring efforts, but are hoping to replant and come back to full strength later this summer,” said farmers David Kozlowski and Sandra Raduenz.

Badgerland Produce Co-op Auction located in Montello represents more than 200 farmers in the general area north of Madison. A number of their growers in Columbia County have seen damage from 1/3 of their crop land to 100 percent. Most of their growers are planning on replanting. Because Badgerland is a cooperative and their growers are spread out through numerous counties, they are anticipating that the volume of product will still be there for local consumers. Their message for consumers: “encourage them to continue buying locally.” “Local farmers need our support,” said Mary Jean Reading.

Larry Johnson is the Dane County Farmers Market manager. He spoke with a number of growers this morning at the Wednesday farmers market. He reports flooded fields and greenhouse; a lot of the spring product has been wiped out. Most folks are looking to replant if the weather this week holds out and more damage is not on the way. Damaged roads and bridges are making it more difficult to get to market in terms of time and fuel. His concern is that for many folks in the southwest, this is the second time around for them.

Driftless Organics and Harmony Valley Farms are two farms in the southwest that have experienced the flood both this time and last August. Richard Dewilde of Harmony Valley Farms reports: Total rainfall was about 12.5 inches by Sunday night along with high winds and some hail. The rain came hard and fast, and despite an afternoon reprieve yesterday, the rate of rainfall was faster than the ground’s ability to absorb or the capacity of some of the drainage ditches to move the water off the fields. Both farms operate CSA’s and sell at the Dane County Farmers Market. Both farms will be replanting crops and are ensuring their customers that they will continue to pack CSA boxes.

“Support for your local farmer is becoming increasingly important. Stop by your local farmers market and purchase your groceries from local farmers!” said Josh Engel, Driftless Organics, Soldiers Grove.

Farms of all sizes and types should report their losses to their county Farm Service Agency by July 15. Damage assessments will help determine if the state or county is eligible for federal disaster assistance. Call the Farm Center at 800-942-2474 for more information.