Fisher Family’s Blizzard of 1978

 
 
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Thank you for supporting our family owned and operated business!

40 years ago was the Blizzard of 1978.  A chain of events, including the actual blizzard, lead to the worst winter for my family’s business. 


My dad and brothers just completed an expansion of a large four hoop, gutter connected greenhouse and were waiting on the delivery of a new hot water boiler that would replace our existing smaller one.  After weeks of delays and many phone calls the boiler was discovered just sitting on a loading dock in Illinois before anyone realized it was supposed to ship to us.  Tired of waiting for the boiler to be delivered, my oldest brother and a neighbor drove to Illinois and back in a snowstorm to retrieve it, stopping only to refuel.  However, the forklift promised to us to get the 2,000 pound steel boiler off the truck and into our boiler room was not available.  Farmers are thrifty and resourceful so between my Dad and my brothers and some steel pipes it was rolled into place.  However leaks and a myriad of other problems prevented the boiler from working in time.


One week before the blizzard, central Ohio received 21” of snow in about a 24 hour period leading to a state of emergency and the closing of OSU, which was unprecedented.  The weight of all that snow on top of our new plastic covered greenhouse with no heat to melt it caused a collapse creating a tangled mess that was threatening to pull down the glass greenhouses it was connected to so my brothers had to cut the connecting pipes.  The insurance company would not cover any damages since there was no heat in the greenhouse and Mom had just mailed a $3500 check (remember this was 1978 money) the month before, paying for the cost of the greenhouse.


To prevent further damage my brothers climbed up into the gutters between our other glass houses shoveling off the heavy snow only to have one brother lose his footing and break through glass, injuring his knee and requiring surgery.  Of course being self employed farmers we had no health insurance.  


All this was horrible but it was business as usual and 40 flats of seedlings were sown adding to the 160 we already had growing in other greenhouses. These would turn into 1000’s of flats of beautiful flowers we would sell in the spring.  Our livelihood.  But just one week after the greenhouse collapse, the blizzard hit with 80 mph winds and a loss of electricity for over 10 hours.  Saving the 200 trays of seedlings was high priority.  The only thing we could do was load them onto shelves in our delivery van with the engine running 24 hours a day and hope the electricity came back on soon.  Luckily a friend called and offered his heated building where we could park our van full of young plants until our heat came back on, even if it were days.  He even drove my brother back to our farm during the blizzard!  Wow!


Finally, after 10 hours the heat came back on!  But in this week of problems wouldn’t you know the furnace in our house wouldn’t come back on and it was already 32 degrees in there even with the fireplace blazing.  A phone call to our very busy repair man yielded a few suggestions my Dad could do to get it going and 45 desperate minutes later it finally kicked back on.  It took another 10 hours to get it back up to 60 degrees, with only some of the faucets and toilets running.


We were grateful no one in our family died during this historic event, but it nonetheless had a detrimental impact on us.  We are ever at the mercy of the weather, us farmers, and I consider our business, Fisher’s Gardens, farming even though we’re producing beautiful flowers instead of vegetables.  Our success or failure is based on something completely out of our control.  Mother Nature.


Spring didn’t show up until May in 1978 compounding the ever present money worries that follow farmers too as our wholesale customers weren’t ready for the plants we had contracted to grow for them.  My Dad was presented with a $10,000 check by a new wholesale customer wanting to buy plants we had already contracted to grow for his competitor.  Although that check would have made a lot of problems go away, it was not in my Dad’s genes to renege on a contract with a customer.


My beautiful Mom kept a diary for over 25 years as a way to chronicle our farming life.  I paraphrased her words for this story as she dedicated over 20 pages to this one week in January 1978.  We are grateful for every customer that walks through our door and hope that everyone in America understands the hardships and supports local, family owned and operated businesses each and every day.