Tropical Storm Irene inflicted massive amounts of flooding and damage on Schoharie County, but nearly three years later, it was hard to tell the disaster struck the area as a recovery agency hosted a farmers and artisans market Sunday on Main Street.
Dozens of local businesses set up shop on the Lasell Hall Lawn selling hand-crafted items, homegrown food, beer and liquor at the second annual Bounty of the County event. By midday there was only a sparse cluster of attendees, but their mood was upbeat and they seemed glad to be there, and glad to be able to be there — seeing life where mud and mold once ruled.
Matt Ladd, a volunteer at Schoharie Area Long Term, said the recovery process is going very well and a “bulk of the process” is complete. Roughly 2,000 pieces of property were damaged in the storm and almost 75 percent of them are fully restored, according to Ladd.
“The fact that the market can take place here today could be considered a miracle,” he said. “This is a great model for a small town that gets hit by a natural disaster.”
Small businesses selling products at the market spoke to the struggles that impacted the area immediately following the flood and the ways in which the community was able to rebound. Some residents and merchants left rather than rebuild when floodwaters receded.
Jim Feldman, who owns a vegetable farm on Cotton Hill Road in Schoharie, said the flood destroyed everything he had growing at the time, and he had to wait until the following spring to replant.
“Those few months were really tough, it took a lot of hard work to get to where we are today,” he said.
Feldman said he is actually able to cultivate much more now, which has enabled him to start growing commercially.
Justin Behan, owner of Green Wolf Brewing in nearby Middleburgh, moved to the area and opened his microbrewery after the flood but was very impressed with how members in the community rallied to help each other.
“The way people in the community really helped each other get back on their feet was quite astonishing,” Behan said.
Lori Wortz, founder of Kymar Farm Distillery in Charlotteville, said the flood has left a permanent mark on the area. She pointed to high-water lines that remain on buildings and the nervous feelings that arise among residents when flash flood warnings are issued.
She said that the way people were able to pull together after the flood and help one another was “amazing.”
“This was a tough but proud moment,” she said. “It was all about people overcoming adversity.”
Willa Reed, owner of Reed’s Real Beef in Cobleskill, believes people are more appreciative of their surroundings after the flood. People are more appreciative of their local small businesses and of each other.
“This proves that it is possible to turn something bad into something good.”