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$200,000 of crops destroyed in 'biggest storm in 30 years'

Red Earth Organics lost more than $200,000 worth of crops in the hail storm on Sunday night.
Red Earth Organics lost more than $200,000 worth of crops in the hail storm on Sunday night. Caine Nichols

Update, 1pm: AN ALSTONVILLE farmer said Sunday's storm was the biggest he has seen in 30 years.

Tom Silver said in the time his family has owned the avocado farm in the Ballina Shire he has never seen a single event destroy crop as this one did.

"It takes a real toll on the avocado crop for next year unfortunately," Mr Silver said.

"A lot of fruit got knocked off by the hail and a fair bit of damaged fruit is still on the tree."

"We'll salvage some crop from what is left, assuming there are not too many more incidents like that."

Tom Silver's avocado farm at Alstonville was smashed by last week's hail storm.
Tom Silver's avocado farm at Alstonville was smashed by last week's hail storm.

While Mr Silver said he was disappointed, he said it was all part of the industry.

"It's just totally a part of it and I sort of see other farmers who lose big crops every second year," he said.

"It's a kick in the teeth to us but we will be alright, it's the other guys who really lost some significant infrastructure that I really feel for."

He said all farmers can really do is try and prepare of an extreme weather event.

"There is really not a lot you can do besides put some money away and maybe put a few projects and purchases on the backburner for the next year."

 

Original story, 5am: ROUS Mill farmers are devastated after losing all their produce in the hail storm on Sunday night.

Co-owner of Red Earth Organics Caine Nichols recalled seeing hail stones the size of "cricket balls" on the night.

"We found ones slightly larger than that and it shattered all the west facing windows in the house and knocked trees down," Mr Nichols said.

Once the storm cleared Mr Nichols and his business partner Aaron Davidson went out and saw the whole four and half acres of mixed market organic vegies completely destroyed.

"We lost 20,000 cabbages we were growing for a sauerkraut company and wholesalers, which were only two to three weeks off the first pick," Mr Nichols said.

"We put everything we had into this expansion to grow these cabbages, we spent $30,000 over the last three to four months to get it happening.

"We lost our garlic crop and all our weekly mixed market vegies that we do for Lismore Produce Markets.

"We looked around and all the orchards with the avocados, figs and bananas were broken so all of this year's crop and all the fruit for next year is gone, we're not going to get any avocados for two years.

"There were probably 100 to 150 avocado trees that are gone and 200 fig trees that are stripped."

Mr Nichols estimates more $200,000 worth of vegies were lost in the vicious storm.

"It was pretty heartbreaking, we were in a bit of shock and it seems a bit surreal walking around everywhere in the half-foot to a foot of hail," he said.

Red Earth Organics was now working through some ideas to help them get back on their feet.

"We need to get back on track or otherwise there could be a chance we lose not only our business but our house and property as well," Mr Nichols said

"We are going to set up a Go Fund Me page and I have contacted the local member for parliament in Ballina and I am going to email them a complete statement of what has happened.

"Unless it is classified as a natural disaster there is going to be no funding available for us."

They are also planning to talk to local vendors at the Lismore Produce Markets to pitch them the idea of creating a charity fundraiser event using local produce in a food and eat night.

Mr Nichols said during the extreme weather event he was thankful the community at Rous all came together to support one another.

"It was nice to see that people can still come together in a crisis and that the community vibe is still alive and active," he said.

They have set up a fundraising page for anyone who wants to help: https://www.generosity.com/emergencies-fundraising/red-earth-organics

Topics:  crop damage hail storm northern rivers farmers northern rivers weather red earth organics



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