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East Hartford, CT 06118

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The Hartford Courant

From Seed to Shelf Logo

Friday, September 17, 1999

After a Dry Summer, Storm Kicks Crops When They're Down

Hanora Futtner on Tractor in Rain

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 8 more.

The rain is too late to save any crops lost to the drought, and so overwhelming it threatens what's left.
Harvesting Corn

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"

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