Connecticut Greenhouse Growers Association Reports on Harsh Winter


The harsh winter of 2012-13 will have a lingering financial impact on Connecticut farmers. Many Connecticut farms incurred extensive damage to greenhouses and other structures this winter.

"According to our last reports, 300 greenhouses went down on 51 farms this winter," said Bob Heffernan, executive director of the Connecticut Greenhouse Growers Association. "We estimate between $12 and $20 million of damages to structures, most of which aren't insured. We really don't know yet about the damage inside to equipment and plants."

The impact is being felt locally. "We had one greenhouse collapse," said Haley Billipp, co-owner of Eddy Farm in Newington. "Having a lot of snow on the ground really put us back." Some farmers are happy, saying the damage could have been worse.

"We've been pretty lucky, considering what happened to a lot of other farms," said Mike Kandefer, co-manager of Urban Oaks Organic Farm in New Britain.

"The blizzard made the roof of our hoop house collapse," said Kandefer. "It bent some from the snow, but it's still standing."

Some local farmers dodged the bullet. "We didn't really get any damage,'' said Diane Karabin, co-owner of Karabin Farms in Southington.

"We did everything we could to prevent it,'' said Karabin. "We opened our greenhouse curtains early in the morning to keep the snow melting on the roofs. Many of the greenhouses that went down weren't properly heated, but there were some who did everything we did and still got damages.''

"We expect our crop to be at least 8 percent higher than last year," said Karabin, who was thankful for her luck. Aside from the storm taking away a few days from production, Urban Oaks is still running ahead of schedule.
"We're producing a little more than average this year," Kandefer said. "We have good crops planted and a lot of our competitors lost a lot more."

"Not all farmers were so lucky," said Heffernan. "The farm that suffered the worst damages was Clinton Nurseries. They lost 100 of the 300 greenhouses lost in the state."

According to Heffernan, there is now a massive rebuilding fury occurring throughout the state. The reason for this fevered pace is that over half of agricultural sales occur between the months of April, May, and June.