Storms hit farm that feeds East San Jose families
A volunteer tends to the Veggielution farm in 2021. Photo courtesy of Emily Schwing.

    When Teresita Garcia was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, everything around her fell apart. She felt hopeless and ugly as her bones weakened and hair fell out. But a small little farm in East San Jose offered her a respite, she said, until now.

    Veggielution is where Garcia, 54, turned to get produce to feed her family, make new friends and deal with her diagnosis. Now that it has flooded, she worries what it means for her family and her health.

    “It changed my life,” Garcia told San José Spotlight in Spanish through an interpreter. “I learned about the chemicals in my food, which maybe made me get cancer. I learned how to eat healthy.”

    Recent Bay Area storms brought more than 8 inches of rain to the 6-acre farm behind Emma Prusch Farm Park, which will put it out of commission for nearly two months, said Emily Schwing, Veggielution public affairs director.

    Flooding at Veggielution in East San Jose has ruined some crops. Photo courtesy of Veggielution.

    Schwing said the farm sustained nearly $10,000 in damages from the storms. Winter crops like baby greens, lettuce and other leafy vegetables are underwater, and crops planted for the spring may not bear fruit due to the flooded soil. But the real impact will be to the roughly 300 East San Jose families, like Garcia, that rely on the below-market rate or free food from the farm.

    “We’re trying to figure out how we plan in the next few months knowing that we’re going to be behind two months during our busiest planting season and (our) busiest harvesting season,” Schwing told San José Spotlight.

    Garcia is one of 250 families in East San Jose that receive a free weekly box of produce. The storms prevented her from picking up her box earlier this month and she said her family suffered.

    “Lettuce is getting expensive, and eggs, so we really rely on Veggielution,” Garcia said. “It’s not only helped me go into remission from cancer, but the healthy food is also great for my husband who is diabetic.”

    Teresita Garcia volunteers at Veggielution. Photo courtesy of Teresita Garcia.

    To ensure families have consistent produce, Veggielution is partnering with other local farms to keep the free weekly boxes of produce operational, but the variety will not be the same.

    Veggielution isn’t the only farm in Santa Clara County dealing with fallout from the storms.

    Sam Thorp, who co-owns Spade and Plow in Gilroy, said his 40-acre farm is a mess. Since they opened in 2015, this is one of the worst storms the farm has seen. He worries if the rain doesn’t let up, it could affect the farm’s summer harvesting season, its most profitable time of year.

    “We can’t pick our produce. We can’t even use a tractor to get through because it is so muddy. But we are luckier than other farms because we don’t have that much standing water,” Thorp told San José Spotlight. “I would say more than 10% of farmland in South County is underwater right now.”

    Thorp said while rain is typically welcome because of recent droughts, these storms will likely have an impact for months to come. Assuming there is no more rain, Thorp said Spade and Plow could resume planting spring crops in two weeks once the soil dries. But that still puts the farm weeks behind schedule.

    “It doesn’t just affect the farms, but also the farm workers and the labor crews,” Thorp said. “(It) also affects everyone down the line in the food industry.”

    He said because many crops have been destroyed, there will be shorter supply, so costs at grocery stores will increase. The lack of supply will hit local restaurants who partner with local farms like Spade and Plow. The Gilroy farm supplies produce to Fox Tail Fermentation Project, Zola, Craft Roots and Braise, to name a few.

    Santa Clara County officials said it’s unclear how many farms have been damaged or how recent storms have affected the $340 million local agriculture industry. State representatives may be arriving later this week or early next week for preliminary inspections.

    “It may be too early to tell what the full extent of the damage is to the farms in the county,” county officials said in a statement. “Fortunately, most of the farms start planting seasonal crops around March-April. If the weather cooperates, those fields should be planted on time.”

    Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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