Hurricane at the Dinner Table

Hurricanes can damage infrastructure used to land fish, as Hurricane Wilma did to Newport pier in the Miami area in 2005. Photo: Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr Creative Commons


As the East Coast begins to spring back to life, there is another disaster waiting to befall us in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. As the storm bore down on the coast, farmers and fishermen scrambled to bring in one last haul before the tempest struck.

Farmers were at very nearly the end of their field season. The last of the hearty greens such as kale and mustard were still going strong, broccoli on the stalk, not to mention all the pumpkins still out to patch. With many of the farmers that I have heard from this week, much of the remaining bounty was harvested before the storm, a last little bump of income to close out the season.

In diversified agriculture the end of the year is a very important time. Farmers invest in seeds and the labor to plant and tend the crops all with an upfront cost. As the season progresses they slowly climb out of the red and hope to hit the black, but it is usually not until the very last few weeks does the farm really recognize profit.

In small-boat fisheries, this message I received from my friend Jared Auerbach at Red’s Best Seafood sums it all up:

“The East Coast got hit really hard the last two days and there are a lot of people who are hurting. In the seafood world, prices are dropping because our customers who typically take the fish our guys catch (items like hake, pollack, redfish, etc) are underwater. We have some really nice fish with no home. With the new ‘catch shares’ management system these guys really can’t afford to have a lost trip because they have to pay for every pound of fish they catch no matter what they sell it for.  With fuel prices high, this could be disastrous for the fleet.  Our conversations with customers this week have been more about wishing their families well than selling them fish.”

Why This Matters

These small, diversified farms and fishermen are a vital part of the food system that sustains us. Their regionalized models are resilient to economic turns, but can be far more resilient than commodity producers in terms of the environmental health of their operations. With a robust discussion about climate change and how it impacted the strength of Sandy, these are the food system players that we need to support the most as they are the least impactful when it comes to our changing seas.

Stem the Tide of Damage: What You Can Do

As many lives begin to creep back to normal, for many the losses sustained were terrible and much longer lasting. Our thoughts are first and foremost with those who still struggle to cope. But those of us who are unscathed have the opportunity to really make a difference this weekend simply through the foods that we choose to buy.

Please visit your local farmer’s market this weekend and buy copiously of the perishable items such as greens and fruit. Call ahead to your seafood counter and ask them to bring in locally caught product for you. Even if you are not on the East Coast, these actions still apply to anyone, anywhere. Our food system is a major driver of climate change and thereby ocean resiliency. By supporting a more sustainable system, we can rewrite the narrative of the new normal to be more delicious, and more sustaining of both our environment and our local economies.

As Jared writes, “lets all put our money where it’s needed most. Any help would be greatly appreciated.  On behalf of the fishermen [and farmers] whose livelihoods depend on your patronage, thank you for your help.”

For more information on why supporting local watermen matters

See how fisheries disaster funds can also help fishermen


Human Journey


Meet the Author
Barton Seaver is a chef and National Geographic Fellow who has dedicated his career to restoring the relationship we have with our ocean. It is his belief that the choices we are making for dinner are directly impacting the ocean and its fragile ecosystems.