Hail damage and farming in the summer of 2018

From Westword (Linnea Covington):

For micro farms like Lost Creek Farm, devastating storms can easily put them out of business, since crop insurance isn’t available for the small producers you usually see at farmers’ markets. The reason it’s so hard for these family plots to get insurance comes down to numbers and policies that center around insuring not the entire acreage, but each individual crop. For example, you would have to get separate coverage for cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, corn, peppers, cucumbers, melons and so on.

Mark Guttridge, who runs Ollin Farms in Longmont with his family, grows 7,000 pepper plants, which may seem like a lot, but in reality only take up one acre. When you are dealing with a farm that grows twenty to thirty acres of one crop, he says, one acre is nothing. Unless, of course, you lose all of that in a storm, which happened at Ollin Farms on August 18.

“We are unable to get insured, and that’s crazy,” says Guttridge. “There’s no crop insurance that’s available for these diversified farms.”

The last storm was the fourth or fifth to cause damage at Ollin Farms, but while the others destroyed a little here and there, none had the impact this last one did. One reason the damage proved so great was because the plants were doing so well.

“After the first ones, I nurtured the plants back to health and built that biological system again and got the plants healthy again,” says Guttridge. “They were getting fully loaded and ready to hit their peak season. Then the storm came last week, and the pea-sized hail came with so much wind, it was like horizontal hail, and it dissolved all of the plants.”

Overall, Guttridge says he lost 80 percent of his tomatoes and peppers. Over the last week, he and his workers have been pruning the plants, plucking off dead and rotting produce and harvesting the few peppers that were protected through the storm. This week he will start on the tomatoes.

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