Front Range Farm Relief Fund
We need to let our local farmers and food producers know how important they are to all of us—in every way we can—including providing financial aid to those who need it now.
Local Food Shift Group, 1 Oct 2013
Video production donated by Wink Inc. Productions
Farming is a precarious enterprise in the best of times. But in times like these, we realize just how fragile our food supply chain really is, and how important local food production is to all of us.
With all the devastation from the flooding in Northern Colorado, it’s still too early to say what the full impact will be on local agriculture and food production. Initial reports are incomplete, but it’s already clear that the very landscape has been altered in many places, creeks and rivers have changed course, fields have been flooded, crops have been contaminated, and precious topsoil has been washed away—and all this at the peak of the farming season.
While millions of dollars in flood relief is pouring into the area, we’ve observed that almost none is targeted to aid local farms, ranches and food-related businesses. Local Food Shift Group—a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization—is now partnering with The Community Foundation and the Boulder County Farmers' Markets to accept tax-deductible contributions for this purpose.
We're asking for small contributions that will go into a special Front Range Farm Relief Fund for grants to farms, ranches and food producers impacted by the flood. The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County will hold these contributions in a special account and make grants on an as-needed basis. We have established a Farm Relief Fund Advisory Group to guide the process. With this Fund, we can quickly direct dollars where they can make the most difference.
Or make a check payable to Front Range Farm Relief Fund, and mail it to:
The Community Foundation
1123 Spruce Street
Boulder CO 80302
Surveying the Damage
Crop losses have already been significant. Vegetables are ill-equipped to deal with 10 to 20 inches of rain in a week. As Oliver Weber at Pachamama Organic Farms puts it, “the unseasonable rains prematurely ended the life cycle of many highly valuable heat loving crops that were just beginning to apex in our area.”
We already know of several farms that experienced painful effects. Zweck’s Fresh Vegetables and Flowers had to evacuate for two days and suffered significant crop damage. The Fresh Herb Company and Bonavida Growers in Longmont, Gaia’s Farm and Gardens in La Porte, Oxford Gardens in Niwot, Ollin Farms in Longmont, and 63rd St. Farm north of Boulder were particularly hard hit. And in the University Hills of Boulder, Scott Hoffenberg’s Flatirons Farm was completely inundated. Three Leaf Farm in Lafayette reports that most of the farm was underwater at some point, now leaving “lakes of mud and debris” to be cleaned up, and their entire crop is ruined.
We’d like to recognize Amy Tisdale at Red Wagon Organic Farm for her recent online report with extensive video coverage. It’s heartbreaking, and yet inspiring at the same time. Amy’s historic post can be found here. She says, “I know it will be a very long time before our community reaches ‘normal,’ and the new ‘normal’ will probably be a ‘post-flood normal.’”
Even on farms that were able to continue operations, washed out bridges and roads prevented many farm hands from getting to the fields, and some workers lost homes or were isolated for days. As Amy says, many people were “trapped, or without power or water, or had their homes flooded or washed away.”
Besides the damage to fields and crops and farm buildings, many farmers lost crucial peak-of-season revenue as farmers markets were shuttered and many farmstands were forced to close for several days.
In some cases, CSA deliveries were delayed or cancelled, widening the flood’s impact to people who paid for their farm fresh groceries in advance. Farm weddings and farm-to-table-dinners were called off, in some cases for the rest of the year.
We’ve heard various damage and loss estimates of $10,000 to $50,000 on several farms, but we suspect many of these projections are conservative when other revenue losses are taken into account. The hard reality is there is no insurance to cover these losses.
At one-acre Bonavida Growers, the storm brought their farming season to a premature end, but not their optimism: “The season was finished by none other than Mother Nature herself,” says owner Tim Quinn. “When the water receded what we are left with is, 7 chickens, a bunch of really nice jack-o’-lanterns and a ton of hope. 2014 is looking good.”
Complicating matters, as Boulder Weekly noted (see “Washing away a harvest”), it’s questionable whether surviving crops can be sold or will have to be destroyed for fear of contamination from heavy metals, fracking fluids, and sewage pathogens.
It also appears that parts of the irrigation ditch system have been destroyed and shut down for the rest of the season, potentially making water ironically scarce.
But we haven’t heard of anyone contemplating getting out of the business. “Farming is tough,” notes long-time producer John Ellis (Farmer John), but “it still beats getting a real job.” [See more from John Ellis and other farmers in Westword’s 9/17 piece on “Farmers and Floods.”]
How We All Can Help
“Yes, these are challenging times, both physically and emotionally,” says Ollin Farms’ Mark Guttridge, “but that is what farming has been about for centuries. From challenges come opportunities for growth, and that is what we are trying to stay focused on.”
We understand that farmers are pretty much allergic to asking for help. But our local growers and food producers are going to need all the support they can get in the coming days and weeks and months as they rebuild, restore, and replant. And as a community we need to rally around them.
Certainly we can volunteer to help clear debris, shovel mud, rebuild fences, and provide shelter to those whose homes have been damaged or destroyed.
We can increase our local food purchasing—at farmers’ markets, at farm stands, at retail stores like Door to Door Organics, Lucky’s Markets, Alfalfa’s, Whole Foods, and Natural Grocers. And we can all patronize the many restaurants who source locally.
But most importantly, we need to let our local farmers and food producers know how important they are to us—in every way we can.
There’s one more thing we can do, and that is to provide financial aid to those who need it. We can support the rebuilding, restoring, and reseeding that will be necessary. We can help prepare our land and our families for possibly even more severe events in the future. Building on this Farm Relief Fund, we’ll work with other organizations to establish a long-term fund dedicated to providing financial support to our local producers in times of need.
Meanwhile, please join us in supporting local farmers and food producers as they recover from this disastrous flood. We’re all in this together.
Questions? Send us an email (), or call 303-494-1521.