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Western Massachusetts farmers facing reduced crop harvests after repeated severe weather

Ruined crops at Natural Roots Farm in Conway, Massachusetts, after the July 2023 floods.
David Fisher
Ruined crops at Natural Roots Farm in Conway, Massachusetts, after the July 2023 floods.

Farmers in western Massachusetts are busy harvesting their crops but they said their yields have been heavily impacted by major rainstorms, the latest of which hit the region last week.

Joe Czajkowski, who farms 400 hundred acres in Hadley, Greenfield, Gill and Amherst, is harvesting squash, carrots, Brussels sprouts and black beans this week.

"Half of the butternut squash is lost and probably half the pumpkins," he said, adding that he also lost 17 acres of carrots.

David Fisher owns Natural Roots farm in Conway, which offers vegetable shares, but he said he's not harvesting anything after getting flooded three times in July.

"It's been pretty much a total disaster for us," he said. "We had about 95% crop loss and we had to till in our entire main production field so we've had essentially no vegetables this year."

Fisher said other area farms have donated produce so he can keep supplying his farm share customers.

Both he and Joe Czajkowski said they have applied for grants from the state to cover some of their losses.

Sandra Thomas, who is with Marty's Local, a western Massachusetts food distributor, said some of the farms it works with are seeing up to 50% less output caused by extreme weather.

She said a late freeze in the spring hurt fruit production and gray skies over the summer hurt tomato crops.

"Now winter squashes and pumpkins and potatoes and all of those have been impacted by the wet weather and also the disease that has resulted of it being so wet," Thomas said.

She said local food producers who make things like pickles and salsa are also feeling the impact of lower output from the region's farms.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education and politics.
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