The storm

Battered by Hurricane Ian, Worden Farm Will Return to the Sarasota Farmers Market Next Week

"When you have these big events, like Covid and hurricanes, it keeps you grounded to the land and to each other and that's why this is our life's work," says Eva Worden.

By Kim Doleatto October 1, 2022

Worden Farm's stand at the Sarasota Farmers Market. The farm will return to the market on Saturday, Oct. 8.

Like millions of Floridians reeling from the effects of Hurricane Ian, Chris and Eva Worden still have no power at their Punta Gorda farm and have a lot of cleanup ahead of them, but “we feel very lucky and we have a generator going,” Eva says. Before the storm, they harvested what produce they could from their 85-acre farm, which has been in operation since 2003.

Punta Gorda, south of Sarasota, was in a region that received some of the worst effects of Hurricane Ian. “We had a direct hit and we received both eyewalls of the storm," Eva says. "It was a long time of feeling that sensation of being right in the middle of a hurricane. Some small pump houses had some damage, but our house and the barns made it through."

Fall vegetable crops were damaged, and they'll have to replace the covers on three greenhouses. Organic fertilizer was ruined, and more than 200 trees were taken down throughout the farm. 

But located 10 miles inland, the farm didn't see much flooding thanks to its elevated fields. "It was surprising that many crops held on in the field," Eva says. "We’re going to see how they regrow. If we have more wonderful weather, it’ll be good."

The staff was able to gather enough produce to stock a limited stand at Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center in Sarasota's Rosemary District on Saturday morning, where volunteers signed up to help restore the farm's greenhouse coverings. The downtown Sarasota Farmers Market was canceled on Saturday, but will return at its usual place and time next week.

The Wordens already have plans for replanting, and staff at the farm are putting down transplants they had saved before the hurricane—items like cucumbers, basil, lettuce, tomatoes, kale and peppers. "In order to provide immense variety, we frequently replant so that our greens are tender and fresh so it's part of our strategy to have succession plants," Eva says.

But it's not just about getting back to business. "Many have been asking what they can do to help out," Eva says. "The encouragement and knowing the farm means so much to people lifts our spirit. It's like we're all part of the same ecosystem. When you have these big events, like Covid and hurricanes, it keeps you grounded to the land and to each other and that's why this is our life's work."

According to Eva, at next week's Sarasota Farmers Market, on Saturday, Oct. 8, the farm should be able to provide butternut squash, acorn squash and small and medium pumpkins for pies and soups, and the farm's produce box subscription program is still on target to kick off in December, with pickup locations throughout the region.

“We're trying to be like the sunflowers and keep our faces toward the light and keep smiling," Eva says.

To help Worden Farm recover from Hurricane Ian, click here. Sign up for Worden Farm's seasonal, organic and locally grown fresh weekly produce boxes here. To learn more about the farm, click here.

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