Hagood's rice crop three days before tropical storm Irma
After losing his entire heirloom rice crop to Hurricane Matthew, Jimmy Hagood raced down to his Lavington Farms today to survey the damage following yesterday's tropical storm Irma. The bad news: As expected, the Charleston Gold Rice fields are drenched. The goods news: The rice is still standing.
Jimmy Hagood grows 30 acres of heirloom rice at his Lavington Farms
"I don’t feel like all is lost," says Hagood.
When Hurricane Matthew smacked Hagood's 30 acres of rice, the winds and water were so powerful, the rice fields had significant lodging, an agriculture term that refers to the bending of stems. It was so bad, Hagood wasn't able to get his combine in to harvest.
But Irma's winds weren't nearly as vicious. The rain however ...
"It’s standing up, so that’s good," he says of the rice. "But we’re kinda back to where we started from water wise. We’re trying to pump it out and then get the trunks working."
Following the traditional form of Lowcountry rice growing, this year Hagood flooded his fields using rice trunks. These sluices, originally made of cypress woods in the Colonial period, allow farmers to manage freshwater irrigation flow to the fields.
Now Hagood will have to use this historical method to lower the water level in his fields out.
"The Ashepoo River is at a surge level, even though it’s at low tide it looks like high tide. That takes a few days to straighten out, then get water flowing," he says.
Provided all that goes according to plan, and the Lowcountry doesn't get another deluge in the next few weeks, Hagood thinks this year's Charleston Gold rice crop will fare better than his last.
"I think we dodged it," he says.