Lifestyle News

Calif. fire relief fund launched to support family farmers

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Responding to wildfires across California, Community Alliance with Family Farmers re-launched a fire relief fund to support smaller-scale farms impacted by this latest disaster.

The grassroots initiative aims to fill the gaps of government aid and insurance, which often fail to reach all farms or account for the wide range of losses, including property, equipment, crops, and markets. Many farms across California were already hard-hit by heat waves, a looming drought and market disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These fires arrived at peak growing season,” said Paul Towers, CAFF’s Executive Director. “Some folks lost everything overnight. Others are scrambling to evacuate their animals. Meanwhile, the rest are still busy in the field making sure we have food tomorrow. Harvesting crops can’t wait. It’s important to keep that in mind while most of us shelter safely indoors.”

Recent lightning strikes combined with parched landscapes and dry winds have made for an earlier than usual fire season, overtaxing firefighting resources. Previous efforts to limit natural fire cycles and the threat of climate change have enhanced these concerns. Smaller farms, often at the interface of wildlands are some of the most likely to be impacted by wildfire.

Alexis Koefoed, co-owner and operator of Soul Food Farm is one of them. This past week, the LNU Lightning Complex fire wreaked havoc on her small, diversified farm in Vacaville. But she remains hopeful. “This moment has emphasized the spirit of unity that comes out during crises,” said Koefoed. “It’s not surprising that farmers, neighbors, and community organizations are rallying to help one another. It’s in our nature. We are connected to each other and to the earth. It reminds me that when things like this happen, people are able to put their differences aside — it’s heartening. These relief funds will help people get back to farming, get back to tending their animals, help buy a tractor or just pay the bills.”

The fund, which began in 2017 during the North Bay fires and has since supported over a hundred California farmers hit by subsequent disasters has a new goal of $100,000 for its latest round. The fund will prioritize smaller operations, while giving priority to farmers who’ve historically had less access to resources, including farmers of color, immigrant, and undocumented farmers. Twenty-five percent of all funds raised will also be reserved for direct aid to farmworkers, the backbone of California agriculture.

Born of grassroots mutual aid among family farmers, the fund has since garnered support from the broader community, those who recognize the importance of protecting our local food system. For the launch of this latest round of funds, the TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation has pledged a major donation, with a goal to ensure a more just and equitable recovery.

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