In my first week at Farm Aid, I received an email from a supporter of a small CSA farm in western Illinois. Due to major flooding from multiple heavy storms, the owners had lost 75% of their crops and suffered major damage to their home. Community members rushed to set up a crowdfunding page to support them in their recovery, and they were also reaching out to Farm Aid for additional support and advice.
I was eventually able to connect with one of the farmers by phone. As she talked about what her family was going through, she began to cry. She was devastated about losing her family’s income overnight and nervous about the future of their farm business. She was also so grateful for the community support her family had received. I pointed her in the direction of our Crisis Support Resource Guide, but as a beginning farmer with limited resources and no crop insurance, it was clear that she might not be eligible for federal resources. Through our Family Farm Disaster Fund, Farm Aid could help sustain the household as they work through the challenges of recovering from the flooding, but our small grant is only a faction of what this couple and other struggling farmers around the country really need.
Knowing that there are not currently enough resources to support farmers in Illinois in disaster recovery, Illinois Stewardship Alliance organized a phone call with Farm Aid and other Illinois-based organizations* to strategize about how best to support farmers. We have begun reaching out to area farmers with a survey to assess the types of assistance that would be most helpful.
As we move forward with our planning, we are looking to examples of how other farming communities have organized in response to disasters and are making plans to mobilize consumers, food businesses, and NGOs to support family farmers who have been impacted by severe rain and flooding this season.
As Farm Aid prepares to come to Chicago for Farm Aid 30, the recent flooding serves as a reminder of the challenges that family farmers face in Illinois. The flooding also illuminates the number of incredible organizations that are working to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in the region, and we are excited to celebrate and support their work.
*Full list of organizations:
- USDA/Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)
- USDA/Farm Service Agency (FSA)
- USDA/Rural Development (RD)
- Illinois Farm Bureau
- Illinois Farmers Market Association
- Spence Farm Foundation
- Fresh Taste
- Band of Farmers
- University of Illinois Extension
- The Land Connection
- Liberty Prairie Foundation
- Angelic Organic Learning Center