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In flood's wake, vegetable farmer calling it quits

Associated Press

HOLLANDALE, Minn. -- Gerald Edwards is calling it quits.

Last week's flooding has destroyed all of his potato and onion crops, and most of his carrots. So Edwards, 50, said he's getting out of the vegetable farming business that his grandfather started, and will now concentrate on corn and soybeans.

"It's kind of hard to be the one to pull the plug, but the reality is that I'm just not willing to risk it anymore," he said.

Edwards, who said he has survived four floods since 1991, said he had about 700 acres of potatoes, onions, and carrots in fields scattered in every direction from this town of 300 about 13 miles northwest of Austin.

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While he didn't want to put a dollar figure on his losses, he said 70 percent of his fields are totally submerged, and the rest are so waterlogged that the vegetables will rot before they can be harvested.

Edwards is one of six vegetable grower-members of the Hollandale Marketing Association, the co-op that handles their potatoes and onions. Its general manager, Larry Forster, said, "the flood raises real questions about the co-op's ability to survive."

The co-op was founded in 1926, around the same time ditches were dug to turn the area from swamp into farmland. On Friday, the area again looked something like swamp, with water filling the ditches in town and covering many of the surrounding fields.

Last year, Forster said the co-op shipped 600 semitrailer loads of potatoes, and they expected to ship 120 loads of onions this year. But he said they'll ship only about 35 loads of potatoes and 35 of onions -- just what could be harvested before the rains came.

"The potatoes and the onions and carrots that remain in the fields are probably going to be a 100 percent loss," Forster said.

Some processors that contract for sweet corn in the area are hopeful some of that crop can be salvaged, Forster said. But local farmers aren't so sure.

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