Where Government Aid Falls Short, Grassroots Fund Helps Family Farms

Second round of grants to 36 farmers totals $90,000

Davis, CA – Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) announced the second round of emergency assistance grants to California farmers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic earlier today. Despite the release of $16 billion in federal funding, many California farmers won’t receive much relief. The California Family Farmer Emergency Fund awarded 36 micro-grants totaling $90,000 in its second round, the most significant funding to date. 

More than two months since shelter-in-place orders were initiated in the San Francisco Bay Area, the pandemic has significantly disrupted the lives and livelihoods of farmers. The California Family Farmer Emergency Fund was created to offer a lifeline for some of California’s farmers most impacted by the pandemic. 

“Action speaks louder than words! The California Family Farmer Emergency Fund demonstrates its support for family farms through continued support even in such challenging times as these. It’s important to give farmers hope amidst the pandemic,” said Dennis Hutson, an Allensworth farmer and pastor.

The fund has received over 300 applications and nearly $1.5 million in requests, providing support to 60 farmers to date. The fund prioritizes smaller operations, particularly on the Central Coast and in the Central Valley, with at least 50% of the funds committed to farmers of color, immigrant and undocumented farmers. In the first round of funding, nearly all awardees identified as farmers of color and had operations considered small-scale. 

“A lot of socially disadvantaged farmers lack technical know-how, and face significant language barriers to apply to the various COVID-19 pandemic related federal relief programs. This fund, with a very simple application process, might be the only financial assistance these farmers receive to help support them during this crisis,” said Aparna Gazula, a University of California Cooperative Extension Small Farm Advisor based out of San Jose.

A diverse advisory committee continues to review applications. The committee includes Leonard Diggs (Pescadero), Aparna Gazula (San Jose), Sacha Lozano (Capitola), Dennis Hutson (Allensworth), Josefina Lara Chavez (Soledad), Nikiko Masumoto (Del Rey), Patricia Miller-Battiste (Stockton), Laura Murphy (Salinas), and Blong Xiong (Fresno). The fund is housed at the Sacramento Region Community Foundation and has received significant contributions from American AgCredit, the 11th Hour Project of the Schmidt Family Foundation and Farm Aid. 

“American AgCredit is proud to support the work of CAFF in its efforts to help farmers during this time of economic uncertainty. CAFF’s Family Farmer Emergency Relief program ensures that funds reach vulnerable family farms, smaller-scale businesses, and local food systems communities to help them through this crisis.”

Second round awardees include: 

  • Tong Vue of Beyond Bokchoy Farm in Fresno who was unable to sell significant amounts of produce and has struggled to keep up with labor needs while also taking care of a child while schools are closed.  
  • Richard Nieto of Richard Nieto Farm in Del Rey lost a lot of sales opportunities with closure of strawberry and caneberry u-pick as well as farmers markets and swap meet closures, and focused on paying utility bills as well as other farm costs.  
  • Amber Balakian of Balakian Family Farms in Reedley lost several traditional markets and is using resources to seek additional food safety certification to pivot to new retail opportunities. 
  • Nelson Hawkins of We Grow Urban Farm in West Sacramento who has struggled with restaurant closures and canceled community events that impacted their bottom-line and is using his grant to prepare for the summer season. 

For more information about the fund, visit https://caff.org/cafamilyfarmeremergencyfund or to read about some of the latest grant awardees, visit https://caff.org/2020awardees/

Contact: Evan Wiig, Director of Communications, evan@caff.org or 415-710-5692 




Community Alliance with Family Farmers is a forty-year-old organization dedicated to creating more resilient family farms, communities and ecosystems.