Mother Nature let loose some serious April showers over the past week, causing many a field to flood and water mains to burst.
But while the storm drains overflowed, farmers across the state said they were doing just fine.
At the Vermont Farmers Market in Rutland on Saturday, almost every stand was occupied and overwhelmed with a bounty of veggies, ciders and soaps, and the parking lot was so full people were getting blocked in while cars lined the road for their chance to pull in.
“The corn floods, but it floods every year,” said Dennis Duhaime, co-owner of Radical Roots Farm in Rutland. “It’s the cold that slows us down … we’re not really doing anything outside yet.”
Duhaime said he farms on sandy-loam, so it drains well even when the worst water works come rolling in.
Patti Plew said aside from dampening their moods, the rain wasn’t affecting anyone at Plew Farm in Mt. Holly: The cattle are still in their barns, completely unaware, Plew said.
“We haven’t had any washouts,” Plew said. “We’re just ready for it to be over.”
Similar sentiments were expressed to the north.
“It’s not really anything devastating,” said Cindy Maynard, owner of Green Mountain Garlic in Waterbury. “The rain we’re getting is good for the garlic. … It likes a lot of water this time of year.”
Dog River Farm in Berlin also managed to avoid the rising waterway, owner George Gross said.
“This is Vermont ten years ago,” Gross said Saturday. “This is totally average for us. … It’s going to dry out over the next couple of days, then we’ll be good.”
While some enjoyed the sand in their fields, others like Greg Cox of Boardman Hill Farm in West Rutland had more of a reason to worry: He farms on clay, which retains more water and can be difficult to drain.
“This storm a week ago … it hit us harder than Irene,” Cox said. “It wiped out my driveway ... it was like we were white-water rafting in the car!”
Cox’s fields are fairly level, which prevented the formation of pools and mud-slides, and for him, the rain might have given him a larger stake in the vegetable game — where it held some farmers behind in their ability to go out and plant in their fields, Cox said he would have had to wait anyway, for his soil to warm up.
“It gullied some places out, but my fields were in pretty good shape,” Cox said. “(The cold) is an equalizer for someone like me, that’s (on) heavy clay with a north-facing slope. I can’t get out there because I’ll do more damage. … Nobody, even if they’re on sand, is out there.”
Cox said he combats the slower temperature increases by planting in pots first, to encourage a stronger root structure and higher rate of success once they’re transplanted into the fields.
“As long as I’m not losing top soil, it levels the playing field for someone like me, who’s not the first out of the gate,” Cox said.
Looking back to when many rivers overflowed as a result of Irene, Cox said the cause of much farm flooding is the eroding of reparian buffer zones: The banks of the river were home to a host of helpful trees whose roots help secure the infrastructure of the riverbanks.
But as farmers plant closer and closer to the river, the zones break apart, and the strength of the barrier between the fields and the floods is weakened.
Roadways outside of the city and throughout Rutland County suffered power outages on Monday, closing roads in Pittsford, Pittsfield, Clarendon, Rutland Town and Brandon, and putting Dewey Field in Castleton completely underwater, according to Town Manager Mike Jones last week.
Flooding caused Pearl Street in Rutland to be closed from 7 a.m. until about 1:30 p.m. on Monday, according to city engineer James Rotundo, and the Dunklee Pond Dam overtopped.
“We put some material there to back it up, reinforce it,” Rotundo said.
Rutland Mayor David Allaire said one resident near the dam was evacuated as a precautionary measure on Monday, but was able to return home later in the day.
Allaire said the state stationed a Middlebury-based rescue team in the city because it looked like the weather was going to be the most severe in Rutland County. On Monday, the Rutland City Fire Department’s water rescue team deployed to get a motorist off the roof of his car after he got stuck in high water in Killington.