NC farmers fight to save waterlogged sweet potato crop


EASTOVER, N.C. (WNCN) — Hurricane Matthew hit right in the middle of this year’s sweet potato harvest, which runs from September to November.

Now, farmers are scrambling to save the harvest and their livelihoods.

“We’re able to get around a lot easier today than we did yesterday, but we’re still … It’s still a struggle,” Michael Gregory, farm manager for Godwin Produce, said.

As recently as Wednesday, the fields were still under a foot of water.

Potato pickers returned Thursday. While plenty of potatoes are coming out of the fields, there are also tons of tubers that have spoiled.

“It’s a pretty good hit, and we really aren’t going to know how big a hit it’s going to be now,” Gregory said. “The biggest thing is getting them into the storage facility.”

N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said there is also a risk that potatoes could go bad after being dug and stored, processes that cost farmers money.

The peanut, soybean and cotton crops have also taken large hits, he said.

“I’ve described this as catastrophic for agriculture,” he said. “I’m not even sure that’s strong enough.”>

The state sweet potato commission is advising farmers to wait until next week to harvest to allow things to dry out.

Godwin Produce will watch the sweet potatoes closely, but is digging now.

“For us, it’s hard to just let them rot in the ground, especially when you know they’re good now,” Gregory said. “With the sun shining, we’re going to get them out.”

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