Fund Supports Family Farmers Falling Through the Cracks of COVID-19 Crisis

Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) announced the first round emergency assistance grants to California farmers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic earlier today. Most of the growers haven’t or are unlikely to receive other forms of assistance, falling through the cracks of state and federal stimulus efforts. The California Family Farmer Emergency Fund awarded 24 micro-grants totaling $60,000 and will award more in subsequent weeks. 

“We’re pleased to offer some modest assistance to farmers hard-hit by the pandemic,” said Josefina Lara Chavez, a farm to market specialist with CAFF, and who also serves on the fund’s review committee. “Small grants like these can make the difference in whether these operations remain open or closed.”

The pandemic has significantly impacted market channels, and disrupted the lives and livelihoods of California’s family farmers. Not only have restaurant closures and changes in food distribution and consumption significantly disrupted and harmed these farmers, but so have everyday hardships, as these small business operators and their families already function on very tight margins. The California Family Farmer Emergency Fund was created to offer a lifeline for some of California’s farmers most impacted by the pandemic. 

“While many of us are doing our part to stay home to keep us all safe, this moment of crisis requires us to look beyond the frame of our individual homes or farms. Supporting our farmers is a reflection of what we believe in and the kind of world we want to see. Few things are more sacred than the act of growing food to nourish our bodies. We can’t let these farmers down,” said Nikiko Masumoto, a 4th generation farmer at Masumoto Family Farm in Del Rey, California.

The fund has received nearly 300 applications and counting from farmers across California and has raised more than $200,000 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. 

“For too many of our small Southeast Asian farmers, this financial assistance is some of the first emergency support that the community has received since the pandemic. The community has felt neglected, left out, and forgotten during this health crisis by their government and the social safety net,” said Blong Xiong, Executive Director of the Fresno Asian Business Institute and Resource Center. “Without community organizations coming together, our small Southeast Asian farming community’s plight might not have been heard.”

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 initial investments from American AgCredit and the 11th Hour Project of the Schmidt Family Foundation. 

First round awardees include: 

  • Darlene Ruiz who runs Products from Paradise, a nopales (cactus) and tomatillo farm in Westley and saw sales dramatically impacted by the pandemic, threatening their organic transition process. She and her family are using the money to continue their marketing efforts to build new sales opportunities for Hispanic cuisine. 
  • Gilroy farmer Wendy Chan who runs WY Chan Nursery lost most of her flower sales and most restaurant vegetable sales early in the pandemic while struggling to find people to help till fields. The grant will help cover much-needed repairs to her greenhouse. 
  • José Baltazar Zarate Lopez who operates San Cristobal Organic Farm in Salinas saw both his wholesale markets and direct-to-consumer sales thin due to shelter-in-place rules, made worse by the loss of his off-the-farm job when that local restaurant shut down.
  • Fresno farmer Kao F Saetern saw significant challenges in caring for and homeschooling children while experiencing increasingly closed market channels and fearful customers. The grant will be used to cover basic living expenses. 

 

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

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

 

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