Horse Shoe—Within minutes, John Mahshie’s vision became sand and silt.
Mahshie, owner of the nonprofit Veterans Healing Farm near Horse Shoe, received a call from his mother at around 9:30 a.m. during Wednesday's flash flood that closed roads and saturated land in Henderson County.
By the time Mahshie got to the farm, located on the banks of Shaw Creek off Yale Road, water had already reached the facility and drowned recently planted crops meant to grow as gifts for veterans.
“I’m still trying to get over that this really did happen,” said Mahshie. “It was so quick. It was five minutes. In five minutes it went from normal to 100-year flood.”
Local farmers like Mahshie dealt with the aftermath Thursday of flash flooding, with more rain in the forecast. But unlike commercial farmers with crop insurance to protect their loss, Mahshie has a rough road ahead to get his farm back into shape.
Veterans Healing Farm is a nonprofit that grows produce and flower bouquets for veterans and their caregivers. Last year alone the organization donated more than 8,000 pounds of fresh produce at the main entrance of the Asheville VA Medical Center.
The nonprofit also helps veterans transition into civilian life through boot camps that cultivate emotional, physical and spiritual health while equipping them with farming-related skills. The first boot camp of the year was scheduled for Friday, but has been canceled.
The farm had just planted its American flag garden with help from volunteers through the United Way’s Days of Caring event, West Henderson Army JROTC and several other groups — about 100 hours of manpower.
Lined with red, white and blue plastic mulch, the garden resembled an American flag from the air. Now a tattered Old Glory sits by the creek.
“When it was done, we had 1,000 pepper plants planted and everything was looking beautiful,” Mahshie said. “It was exciting to be this far along this early in on the season. It’s all gone. It all just washed away. Everything is covered with sand and silt.”
In addition to the peppers, all the eggplants and tomatoes washed down river. Mahshie was able to recover about half of them. He hasn’t even begun to access the damage to the rest of his crops.
But Mahshie was grateful his sheep were unharmed. He first found them Wednesday morning knee-deep in the water down in the field. By the time hooked his tractor to their mobile barn, Mashie and the sheep were surrounded by water.
Mahshie had no choice but to drive through three feet of water. He almost got bogged down, but was able to get the sheep out safely.
The government forced Mahshie to place his facility, which is used to house veterans during boot camps, on a 4-foot-high pillar system since it was in the floodplain. Mahshie said he resented the pillars and thought they were pointless, until now, after it spared the facility from damage.
For Mahshi, the only option is to start from scratch.
“Everything we grow we give away for free at the hospital,” he said. “I know people would be understanding if I don’t come out this year, but it’s not an option. I have to do it. I will do it.”
An online crowdfunding campaign has been set up for farm, which has raised more than $400 so far. The page can be found at www.tmcfunding.com by searching for Veterans Healing Farm.
Produce stand washed out
Just down Yale Road at Edmundson Produce Farm, Carolyn Edmundson said she lost about $500 in produce that was on the bottom shelf in their farm stand. Fortunately the water receded and she was open for business Thursday.
Edmundson was able to sell strawberries that were picked before the rain, but it will be a while before a fresh batch can be picked again.
“We’ll have to throw off all of our red berries for about a week and a half until the new berries start out,” she said.
Edmundson said they’ve probably lost about one to two weeks of strawberry picking, which is hard to put a price tag on. They have 12 acres of sweet corn still underwater at their farm near the French Broad River. That will be a total loss, she said.
More rain to come
A flash flood watch was in effect for Henderson County until 8 a.m. Friday.
The pattern of showers and thunderstorms will continue well into next week, according to Rodney Hinson, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Greer, S.C.
Hinson said there’s roughly an 80-percent chance of precipitation Friday, which will dimish to a 60-percent chance Saturday and Sunday. Most of the rainfall will be in the afternoon and evening.
That 60-percent chance of precipitation will continue into Monday and Tuesday before finally dropping to a 50-percent chance Wednesday and Thursday, Hinson said.
About 330 Henderson County customers were without power Thursday morning, according to Duke Energy’s outage map. By 6 p.m., only 10 outages remained.