The Hartford Courant
Friday, September 17, 1999
After a Dry Summer, Storm Kicks Crops When
Honora Futtner drives a tractor Thursday across Silver Lane
and into fields her family farms in East Hartford. Her husband, Jim, was in
other fields in South Windsor, picking vegetables. Behind Futtner are farm
employee Amy Kowalasky, left, and the Futtner's daughter, Carrie.
Too Much, Too Late
By FRAN SILVERMAN
Courant Consumer Affairs Writer
And then the rains came And came. And came. After fighting a drought an summer
long, Hurricane Floyd Thursday flooded the East Hartford and South Windsor
fields tilled by Jim and Honora Futtner. The storm saturated soil already soaked
by the remnants of Hurricane Dennis and several other low-pressure systems that
have moved through the state in recent weeks.
It's as if Mother Nature is making up for what she withheld all spring and
summer, Jim Futtner said
But it's too much, too late.
"You look out and you see rain now, and you wonder why it couldn't be spread
out, an inch a week?" he said. "It's a mind game."
All summer, the Futtners and other farmers throughout the state had pumped water
onto their dry, withered crops as they grappled with the driest summer in
decades. They dragged irrigation pipes through cornfields and pumped water from
rivers, wells and hydrants, all the while praying for rain.
And finally, up from the tropics it came. By midday Thursday, Floyd - a 600-mile
wide hurricane - had already dumped at least 3 inches and threatened to pour on
The rain is too late to save any crops lost to the drought, and so overwhelming
it threatens what's left.
Jim Futtner unloads corn that was picked Thursday morning
in an effort to create a stockpile, should high winds damage the cornstalks. The
rain not only has come too late to save crops damaged during the dry summer, but
it also is a threat to crops still in the field.
Dressed in yellow rain slickers and knee-high boots, Jim and his crew of two men
spent much of Wednesday in the muddy l5-acre South Windsor field, filling
baskets with as many peppers as they could pick, fearing that 50 mph winds could
rip them from their vines.
Thursday at 7 am, Jim was in the fields picking corn and peppers. It was messy
work. The mud was thick and gooey. The rain had already carved rows of streams
into the fields. As they picked, the only sound was the steady patter of drops.
"This is summer to the extreme," Jim said.
Jim Futtner, 51, has been farming all his life, working with his father,
Raymond, and then on his own after college. Some things, he said, you can fight
- like the drought. But a hurricane?
"You can't argue with Mother Nature."
It is late in the harvest season; the crops don't have a long shelf life. The
Futtners have to pick enough to meet orders, but not more than they can store
for a day or so.
By noon Thursday, they had picked 275 bushels of peppers to deliver to the
regional market in Hartford and 30 bags of corn for the Futtner farmstand.
The market is packed with trucks stuffed with produce picked by farmers trying
to stay ahead of the storm. One of the farmers is Jim's cousin, Blacey Futtner,
who tills 70 acres in East Windsor.
"Think it will rain today," Jim teased Blacey.
They wait together, exchanging family news, as produce managers from a
wholesaler, Fowler & Hunting, poke through the boxes, discarding green peppers
that have tiny red spots or marks.
"We were sorting the peppers late into the night in the dark," Jim explained
"Nobody wants to pick crops in a hurricane," Blacey said.
At the farm stand, Jim's wife, Honora, drives the tractor towing a cart into the
East Hartford field so crews can load it with sweet peppers. Then she and
daughter Carrie start bringing in flats of plants and bins of produce. They
store some in the greenhouses out back, where the rain has already created an
ankle-deep trough alongside the buildings.
While planting in May, Honora had worried about the weather.
"You never know when there's going to be a hurricane," she had warned.
Thursday she told her family: "I was right"