Dairy cows were among the victims of Washington's floods. Photo by Mike Kane for the Seattle P-I.
Washington and Oregon suffered disastrous rain and wind for days starting on December 1, and farms in southwest Washington were hit particularly hard. Some dairies dumped their milk when a 20-mile section of I-5 closed and the milk couldn't be transported. Many farms lost most or all of their livestock to drowning.
While addressing the losses of their produce, animals, farm equipment, vehicles, and household goods, some farmers are also scrambling to prevent another threat: barn fires. They must dry the hay before microbes in wet bales generate enough heat to start a blaze.
The storm affected two farms previously profiled by the Ethicurean: Estrella Family Creamery and Helsing Junction Farm. The Estrellas lost the roof of their goat barn when wind shredded it; the roof was rated for 90 mph winds, according to Anthony Estrella. Anthony expected to start rebuilding yesterday. We have a call in to Helsing Junction, and will provide an update when we know the extent of their damage.
Helsing Junction received some help with its recovery effort from the Gleaners Coalition, which gathers surplus produce from Olympia area farms for delivery to food banks. The coalition continues to transport volunteers to other organic farms in the area for clean-up work parties, with announcements about upcoming efforts posted on its website.
FEMA assistance is also available since the president declared a major disaster on Saturday. As reassuring as that is, Washington farmers digging their homes and businesses out from under the mud, livestock carcasses, and debris left by flooding might also be glad to know that the Washington State Farm Bureau has just established a Flood Relief Fund. We know money is tight over the holidays, but we hope you will consider donating.