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Hugo 30th - Effects on Agriculture

October 18, 2019 - Posted in Palmetto Scene by Michael Collins

In 1989, The River’s Farm was hit by Hurricane Hugo, causing over one million dollars damage to their crops, equipment, and home. Buddy Rivers recounts the terrifying moments during the storm, the aftermath, and the effects on agriculture in his community.

Buddy River’s father started The River’s Farm in 1955 on the outskirts of Sumter, South Carolina. Their main row crops were wheat, corn, cotton, soy beans, and peanuts. In 1979, once Buddy had finished college and married his sweetheart, he joined his father in the farming business. The farm underwent challenges, including a massive drought in the 1980’s, which they were able to overcome due to their investment in new irrigation.

Buddy remembers “If I didn’t have my father’s guidance in the eighties, I doubt I’d be farming now. But he was able to pull us through those early years of my farm career.”

The River’s Farm was doing pretty well again just before being hit with one of the most damaging hurricanes to ever hit the east coast. Buddy reports losing over a million dollars to the storm after the damage to his farming equipment, lost crops, and to his own home were calculated.

“It was just a mess! We had to scramble around for about a week, and try to save what we had harvested,” Buddy recalls.

He was happy to see his parents had also survived, after counting sixty-three downed trees as he winded his way to their house to check on them. The community was grateful to the River’s family, because they had use of a 35kw generator that they had purchased to run their irrigation, and no one else had electricity.

“It was a central station for this whole community; I bet everyone in the community came up and took showers, and anything else they had to do with electricity, they did at our house,” Buddy remembers.

Power was nearly out for thirty days, as the electrical grid had to be completely rebuilt in the area. “Agriculture got devastated. There were no winners and losers in this thing, if you had land or property anywhere in the multi-county area, you suffered.”

Buddy also recalled that most farms, including theirs, didn’t have insurance back then.

Today, the farm has recovered, but the process took years, and Buddy counts this as fortunate. The farm has grown from approximately 1500 acres, to 2500 acres today. The equipment is bigger, more technical, and more expensive, but they need fewer employees to operate. Still, they work from sun up to sun down to make it profitable.

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