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Irene plus 1 - Farm recovery will be a two-year process

Elwin Neill of Neill Farm in Waitsfield didn’t waste any time repairing the damage Tropical Storm Irene did to his farm. “My hay rake took a ride down the river,” he said. “But I got it out and used it.”

Neill leased heavy equipment to repair the streambanks himself, and he salvaged as much as he could from his flooded fields. “We went at it like we weren’t going to get any money or reimbursement,” Neill said. “And we haven’t, yet.” But the deadline for Farm Service Agency (FSA) funding is in October, so the farm will hopefully recoup some of its losses then, he explained.

The biggest change to Neill Farm since the storm came from the farmer’s decision to sell his dairy herd this past May, but Neill had been transitioning to raising cattle for beef even before Irene, as he considers it a more financially viable option.

In the fields, Neill lost 30 out of 80 acres of corn and a couple hundred hay bales to the storm, but he spent all spring getting crops back in the ground. Now, he still needs to redo about 15 acres of the hay crop, “but the corn looks good,” he said. “It’s still the best sweet corn in The Valley.”

You can’t rush growing plants and vegetables, thus farms will take longer to recover than other types of businesses not dependent on nature, Neill explained. “It’s going to be a two-year recovery,” he said matter-of-factly. But he’s staying positive. “Maybe things will be back to normal next year.”

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