[MUSIC PLAYING] ERICH MCENROE: Erich McEnroe, director of farm operations at McEnroe Organic. We are a 1,200-acre certified organic farm located in northeast Dutchess County in the town of Millerton, New York.
I have seen some events that were scary. We had a very bad hailstorm a few years ago in the middle summer. It took a lot of crops out. It was quite devastating actually. It was like 25th of July, when everything was ripe and ready to get picked. And big, big hail came down.
It destroyed most of our outdoor vegetable crops. It was well over $50,000 in damage, if not $100,000. So that was an extreme event.
The rule of thumb in this region is May 21 is the last possible frost date. We got a frost the 23rd of May last year. So we make sure that we don't just go by the rule of thumb anymore and don't plant anything too early. Of course, the droughts get a little bit longer, it seems like. We have definitely seen more invasive species coming through and more pests.
Last year, the rain was incredibly tough, with our compost operation especially. Because we have a large area exposed, with no vegetation really. It's just kind of open. So you really get to see how runoff effects it. We had a lot of roads wash out, the tomatoes crack. Just wet feet, in general, on all the vegetables isn't healthy for them as a whole.
So we're fairly well-drained soil here. But there's definitely been fields that we've couldn't plant in because they're just too wet in the season. So when you start losing a 10, 12-acre field at a time, it adds up. I mean what's the opportunity cost of that? And is it just because it was too wet to plant?
But these are things dealing with being a farmer in the Northeast too. I mean it's how you grow in the Midwest, where you got flat, open corn ground and that's all you're doing. And we're planting a variety of vegetables and a variety of crops throughout the year. And there's going to be bumper crops and there's going to be crops that don't make it as well.
After the hailstorm, we've done a couple things. We invested in some more high tunnels, just protective structures to grow our tomatoes in. If it's a late frost, if it's early frost, if it's fits hail, if it's blight, if it's birds, a closed environment makes things much easier. So, yeah, we'll continue to invest in that and any technology that's there.
Like the base of our operations is our compost. And part of our model is to recycle and reuse as much as we can. Compost-based fertilizer is much different than like just a straight urea. It holds its nitrogen much longer and it distributes it. It's slow release. You don't have to worry so much about runoff.
And I think conventional farmers as well, there's a lot technology out there that they realize you don't want to spend the extra money to have it go down the drain first of all, but also for the environmental aspect of it. That people are more keen than they were 20 years ago.
We have implemented rainwater collection on a large scale off our mechanical shop. We have a waste oil furnace. We have some wood gasification stoves to heat our greenhouses. So we're always trying to find ways to reduce our energy imports.
I think climate change is something that is never going to stop changing. Everything changes. It's just how fast it changes and what are we going to do mitigate some of the risk?
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Erich McEnroe of McEnroe Organic Farm in Millerton, NY discusses the impacts of extreme weather and climate variability and the steps he is taking to become more resilient. McEnroe Organic Farm is a diversified 1,200 acre farm specializing in a commercial compost operation. The Climate Smart Farming videos are produced by the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture (CICCA) and ConservationBridge.