South plains farmer couple left to clean up high tunnel debris after last week’s winds

KCBD Evening Newscast 6 p.m. -3/18/2019 Greenhouses

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Farms are still cleaning up and rebuilding from last week’s high winds in the South Plains. R&R Farms, located in West Texas, is one of the many produce farms that sustained damage.

Ray and Rhonda Lowry, co-owners of R&R Farms, say the high winds were detrimental to their strawberries and have delayed their growth about two weeks. Their two massive high tunnels, which house the strawberries, collapsed one right after the other, leaving the couple to come up with another way to save some plants and make way for new ones to grow.

“We put little tunnels on top of them to keep them warm in the freezes during the last couple of nights. We’ve taken the covers off to the let the sun get to them. We have a few extra strawberry plants left in the barn growing room. We’ll put those out to replace the ones that were damaged. So, we’ll have around 1,300 hundred strawberry plants,” said Ray Lowry, who is also the president of the West Texas Growers and Producers Association. “We should have strawberries at the opening of the farmer’s market at the end of the month,” he added.

Low tunnels will help keep the moisture in and keep the roots warm during the cold nights, added Rhonda. She said they’re different from green houses because green houses have electricity.

They are very busy growers, providing to four different farmers markets in West Texas as well as some bakers and restaurants, but they say they’re happy they’ve been in contact with their customers and have talked about the slight delay.

The strong winds were surprising for Rhonda, the long-time farmer, too.

“This is probably one of the strangest winds--- I grew up in Lubbock-- and we have high winds, but nothing that has been sustained like this for over 16 hours. Of course, we don’t know what happened and what landed on the farm.”

As for their other produce, there wasn’t much of an effect because a lot of the crops are dormant and haven’t been planted yet.

They had over 20 volunteers come last week and clean up the debris from one of the high tunnels. Wolf Kuhlemeier, Wild West Market manager and board member of the West Texas Growers and Producers Association, helped coordinate the event. As apart of the board, he committed to one of the association’s missions: to help build better opportunities for farmers.

“What we’re trying to do is help them get back on their feet a little quicker and get to production- maybe get more stuff into the market faster than they would have,” he said.

“This is one reasons we are part of the West Texas Growers and Producers Association. We’re family first. I’d rather be apart of something like this. You think you’re struggling alone and then you get this big group to come out and help. It gives you a lot of faith in your community and your neighbor," he added.

The couple remain optimistic. Rhonda said that farmers deal with damage and crises all the time.

“The day after it happened, I couldn’t quit crying. But that was just getting through the loss, but now it’s like ‘It’s okay.’ If farming were easy, everybody would be doing it. We’re farmers. We’ve been through this. Things happen. We’ll get through this. God’s always blessed us and God will continue to bless us.”

Now, they just have to get on to cleaning the next high tunnel.

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