Well, after two raging tropical storms, farmers were bawling for the opposite reason. First there was Otto, which initially brought the kinds of showers that had this farmer literally dancing around with joy.
Then the showers continued on and on and on until most of us began to beg for a break. By the end, the flooding caused such damage that most of our tiny seedlings and plants were either washed away or developed root rot.
After the rains ceased and the ground was nice and soft (and therefore easier to work), many farmers and growers set about replanting and sowing seeds and transplanting those few seedlings that survived.
No sooner than we had it all set up, here came Hurricane Tomas, not with a direct blow but with a long tail full of rain that went on for a week. This is where the woes really hit hard.
By the time the last drop had been expended from Tomas, farmers were hanging their heads wondering if it was worth trying again or whether it would just be better to allow the ground to dry out then go fallow and skip a season.
The soggy earth rotted whatever roots were left in it. However, much of what had been replanted was simply washed away, as the seeds and seedlings could not withstand the torrential waters.
This farmer was fortunate. I had been given some sorrel seedlings by my neighboring farmer, Washington Gumbs, and had planted them on the slope of the farm in the area designated as the orchard.
So while my tomatoes continued to struggle to hang on for dear life after their roots became exposed to the elements after the topsoil was washed away, the sorrel was somehow able to hang on and survive.
Usually by the time December rolls around, V.I. markets are filled with the beautiful rich red-burgundy color of pounds and mounds of sorrel ready to be turned into the traditional holiday drink or into jams and jellies.
This season the crop is very late and few farmers have sorrel that survived. As a matter of fact, few farmers have much of anything to show at this critical time when chefs and cooks are looking for produce and herbs for their holiday meals.
The effects of the storms were so devastating that the annual Ag Fair held jointly by U.V.I. Cooperative Extension Service and the Department of Agriculture on the grounds of the Reichhold Center had to be cancelled because of a lack of response from farmers. There simply was not enough produce to make the event worthwhile.
The only element that survived strongly, were the weeds. Leaving the question, how can we turn this bane of our existence into a cash crop? Livestock farmers who have pasture were fortunate to have been left with lush vegetation for their animals. Crop farmers tightened their belts and went about the business of starting over to try to salvage a late harvest in the 2011 season.