“We have breaking news, a category two hurricane will make landfall Wednesday morning in the Florida Panhandle. Southwest Georgia will also be targeted by the hurricane. Residents should expect heavy rain and winds, which can cause mass destruction.” This is what Dawn Ponder heard when she turned on the news channel.
She sat with her patient as she took in the news, wondering how she was going to prepare for a storm that was rapidly approaching. “What are you supposed to prepare when a hurricane is coming? When a category two turns into a category four overnight,” Ponder said.
Not only does Ponder work as a private sitting certified nursing assistant, but she also owns and operates Ponder Farms in Whigham, Georgia with the help of her partner, Jarred Andrews. Whigham is about fifteen miles from Bainbridge, which received massive amounts of destruction from Hurricane Michael. Their farm produces many crops; including pecans, peanuts, and cotton. The farm has been affected before by past storms, but nothing like the destruction of Hurricane Michael.
Ponder admits that they were skeptical about the hurricane. Neither one of them expected the storm to cause much damage.
“Every year, we get about four or five hurricanes and we just get rain or a tornado off of them. Tropical storm Faye and your basic thunderstorms that come through every year have affected the farm, but to no major effect like this,” Ponder said.
Ponder didn’t have enough time to prepare the farm for the storm that was coming. Rain fell for days before the storm reached Whigham. “We weren’t able to harvest our cotton because of the heavy rains. We weren’t able to do much more preparing, besides putting a wagon of peanuts that we harvested in the barn,” said Ponder.
She admits that when preparing for the hurricane, the farm was put on hold. As a mother, she put her children’s needs before anything. “I went overboard at home to prepare my children for the storm, not the farm. I got ice and a generator for my freezer, that was it,” she said.
Hurricane Michael reached Whigham, Georgia on Wednesday, Oct. 11. When the hurricane touched down on their farm, all hopes for harvesting the crops were gone. “This cotton crop was probably our best in 50 years. Some of my fields had 4 bale cotton per acre. 4 bale cotton is like gold to the poor people in Ethiopia. It only comes once or twice in a farmers lifetime,” said Ponder.
During the storm, Ponder stayed at home; making sure that her children, her home and her goats were okay. While home, she watched as the hurricane ripped through the small town. “The wind was howling so loudly that you couldn’t hear the rain fall outside. I watched as the winds snapped and uprooted our pine trees out of the ground,” she said.
Andrews decided to check up on the farm to make sure the hurricane didn’t destroy it. “My partner, Jarred Andrews, was at the back of his truck talking on the phone with his brother when he watched the roof tear off the barn.”
When the storm was over, the damages to Ponder’s farm and crops were immense. The hurricane almost destroyed everything. “I lost all of the barns, the equipment shed and the roof of my farmhouse. We lost most of our cotton, we may have a bale and a half left,” she said.
A month later, Ponder is keeping her hopes up. She wishes that next year and upcoming years will be better for the farm.
Ponder said, “Hopefully, next year will be much better. We’re going to continue to farm and plant cotton and peanuts. If we make it out on top and have a good year, we will be able to pay off the debts from the hurricane.”