Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In the above photos we see Christopher Pawelski, who with his father and his brother owns and runs Pawelski Farms in Pine Island, NY. The Pawelskis grow onions in the rich black dirt of Pine Island. Their family has farmed it for several generations. Pine island, one of the largest black dirt regions in North America was formed when the glaciers of the last ice age melted and turned the entire area into a swampy bog. Over the centuries all of the organic material in the swamp settled to the bottom and remained there until Polish immigrants settled the area. They drained the bogs and created some of the most fertile farmlands in the state.

I interviewed Christopher back in May after a severe windstorm which acted like a sandblaster to crops, followed by two harsh frosts left him wondering how much of his harvest was going to be salvageable. At first I thought the fields did not look too bad, until he explained that most of the green plants I was seeing were barley, which are used as a cover crop in the early growing stages. It would not be evident for several weeks how much damage had been done; perhaps 20%-30% crop loss. It is hard to tell for certain though until harvest. Nonetheless, a couple weeks later they were out working the fields again, hoping for the best.

Unfortunately the government aid programs and farmers insurance barely cover the costs of onion farming. The amount of aid is calculated by basing the costs on corn, rice and cotton farming, which is only about eighteen dollars an acre, whereas onion farming is far more costly per acre.

I will be returning to do an update on Pawelski farms in the near future.