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Eden growers assessing storm damage

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

Last week's storm dumped heavy snow upon the Eden Valley, damaging greenhouses and structures that are integral to the local food network.

The Zittels have been growing things in Eden for well over a century, with a farm on Webster road so big it produces one million geraniums a year and needs a series of its own natural gas wells to support year-round-operations.

After the storm, the farm looked more like a scrap yard, with twisted steel supports, wind-blown large plastic sheets and piles of broken glass. Seven feet of snow was more than the structures could handle, even with the heat turned on to help plants grow. Paul Zittel has spent nearly 40 years building the network of greenhouses and was clearly worn as he showed what happened to reporters and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Credit Mike Desmond/wbfo news
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Chris Collins were among the officials who viewed the damage to farms in the Eden Valley.

"We've got to call for help to come in. We've got to order new greenhouses. You need to build them during the wintertime. We're going to need massive help," Zittel told reporters.

"There's an outfit coming in out of Ohio, right now, to look at stabilizing the main walkway for our glass greenhouses, just to save the boilers, save the water, save the electricity."

There was so much snow in the Eden area that a dairy barn fell down, crushing more than a dozen cattle.

State Agricultural and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball says he has large greenhouses on his family's Schoharie County farm and worries whenever he sees a snowflake.

"That's a disaster right there," said Ball as he inspected the damaged structures at Zittel's.

"The amount of snow here that came and the rapidity and the consistency of it, there's no words for it. It was just enormous. Normally, we can turn the heat on in the greenhouse and keep the snow away from the sidewalls and keep up with the storm. This was just a less than perfect storm."

Credit Mike Desmond/wbfo news
This greenhouse was one of many that were damaged during "Snovember."

Eden farmers like the Zittels worry they won't be able to get their first crops growing in greenhouses which should be in January, with Paul Zittel saying the destroyed greenhouses provide 40 percent of the family firm gross.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.