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Storm destroys 90 percent of farm's greenhouses

Posted at 7:42 AM, Nov 24, 2014
and last updated 2015-11-19 07:42:22-05

Zittel’s Farms, known for its fresh, mouth-watering corn and a major regional producer, was in the heart of the snow belt battling the storm. The weight of the snow collapsed more than 10 of their greenhouses.

Only 10 percent remain standing.

PHOTO GALLERY | Storm damage from around Western New York caused by this snow event

Co-owner Kevin Zittel said, “Started to fall down and then subsequent greenhouses have been. And then today our range at Webster Road started to go.”

Photos show the extensive damage as the owners worked their hardest to remove the heavy snow.

“We've been able to keep the other greenhouse range up with heat but we're at the point now where we're considering cutting the plastic and letting it all in,” he said.

The first greenhouse range contained all of Zittel's vegetable production, which is produced inside during the winter months and then planted in the spring.

The second, the propagation range, contained cuttings that are shipped all over the country.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is in Western New York Monday to tour damage at Zittel's and will discuss agricultural damage. She, along with Senator Charles Schumer, has requested swift action from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture in response to aid requests for the region.

Despite the more than $5 million in damage, the Zittels remain optimistic and will work side-by-side to rebuild.

"Our crop is a complete loss for this winter," said Terry Zittel. "It's sad to see it all go. The flip side is farmers are resilient people."

Zittel's say insurance does not cover much of the damage. Insurance on greenhouses only covers a small portion, as greenhouse structures are considered "temporary."

"They will not insure them for as much is the replacement value is. So for us we do not have enough insurance," said Zittel.

Down the road, WD Henry & Son's have also sustained serious damage.

"We lost a steel building our main parking house caved in Thursday night, two more free standing greenhouses have fallen," said Mark Henry of WD Henry & Sons.

Farmers are working on rebuilding. Senator Gillibrand hopes that FEMA money will be available for farmers, but admits it takes a long time for the money to arrive.

"We need to be as helpful as we can for these farmers," said Gillibrand. "There's a lot of challenges in the system with insurers who don't want to pay up."