Food Industry

Unprecedented Heavy Rain and Flooding Devastate Local Farms

When Muriel Olivares, co-owner of Little River Cooperative (360 NE 154th St., Miami), arrived at her North Miami-Dade farm Friday morning, all she saw was water. Her vegetable and herb gardens, normally lush and vibrant, were submerged in inches of cloudy, soil-filled rainwater. The field looked more like a pond.  

"It got really flooded," she says, "more flooded than I've seen in the four years I've been farming here. It rained more in one night than in the summer when it's usually supposed to be really bad."

Olivares says the effects of this weekend's rain on her farm, and others in the area, can only be described as disastrous. "I might be exaggerating, but in my world, this is a disaster," she says. "It's freakish and not normal. No one expected this to happen. It's like getting a hurricane in the middle of winter. 

Her farm, Little River Cooperative, which she co-owns and operates with friend Tiffany Noe, had been planted with kale in recent weeks. Those hundreds of plants now need to be killed. "The crops in the ground are done for now," she says. "The kale plants would have given us enough for the entire season, because when you cut them, they grow back. We harvest about 80 bunches of kale per week, and now it's all gone."

She says it's difficult to quantify crop losses but says it's "a lot." The farm's finances will probably take a hit in the next month. "It's a huge financial loss," she says. "At Little River, we're very diversified. We don't rely completely on produce, so we're lucky in a case like this. We will recover and start over, but there will definitely be a gap in production."

To fill Little River's hole in production, she says, the farm will outsource from other farms on the west coast of Florida or local farms that were not affected.  

As the weekend progressed, areas including Kendall and Homestead received destructive amounts of rain and flooding too. "It poured down in different areas on different days," she says. "At first, our partners in Homestead were fine, but Saturday night, they were hit really bad, almost like Hurricane Andrew-style. It's shocking to have woken up and heard about the floods in Homestead when it was so bad in our area on Friday. There are definitely going to be long-term effects."

According to the Weather Channel, already it's the wettest December since 1929 for South Florida. Miami averages about six inches of rain December through February but has already seen upward of eight inches. The forecast predicts heavy rain to decrease as the week progresses.

"This wasn't your average rainstorm," Olivares says. "I do think we'll be OK. In a month or so, our fields will bounce back. And as long as it doesn't rain anymore, the fields will drain out. I think we'll be able to start harvesting again in a few weeks."

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Clarissa Buch Zilberman is a writer and editor, with her work appearing in print and digital titles worldwide.
Contact: Clarissa Buch