California has been pummeled by an intense series of winter storms and atmospheric rivers since December 2022. While the rains provide much-needed drought relief, filling up reservoirs and watering thirsty crops, the severity of the storms has had severe negative impacts on family-scale farmers across California.
Due to the recent storms — including flooding, wind damage, and untimely frost and snow — small-scale family farmers have been forced to evacuate, leaving behind ruined fields, houses, and barns. Many have incurred thousands of dollars in damages to their homes and businesses, losing infrastructure, machinery, livestock, transplants and seeds, value-added products and crops. Many are concerned about the compounded effects this will have on delayed planting windows and crop quality. The future is uncertain, but there will be dire and likely prolonged negative effects.
Federal support for impacted farmers — through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Federal Emergency Management Assistance — has been slow to materialize, and many growers are not insured or are underinsured, particularly for crop loss. For others, they are unable to receive assistance (particularly due to immigration status or language barriers) or unable to wait for significant delays in any public safety net resources; these local producers & community entrepreneurs are the heart of our local food systems and need public support to recover and remain on their land.
CAFF staff and partners have been collaborating closely to provide direct and immediate assistance to small farmers across the state. To date CAFF has awarded $185,000 through mini-grants, primarily through working with local community foundations, community groups and churches. Another $98,750 is scheduled to go out at the end of April.
Although it might seem like a lot of money, it’s not enough to address the severity of storm impacts. Of the 200 applicants, only 46 could be awarded. For example, in our survey of Chinese-American growers in Santa Clara County, we identified over $2 million in uncovered losses, and in one town hall in San Benito County in February, more than 125 (mostly Spanish-speaking) farmers showed up seeking assistance.
We are feeling an urgency to support farmers that had their farms and families upended by these storms. The numbers underscore the need that has not been met. And wildfire season is just around the corner. We know there will continue to be climate-related hardships for small farmers. Please consider supporting our emergency fund, share with other like-minded funders, or feel free to get in touch if you would like to learn more.