A farmer profiled by Visit Rico.

Blog | January 23, 2020

Helping Puerto Rico’s Farmers Recover from Devastating Earthquakes

by Caroline Malcolm Fiore

After hearing reports of the recent earthquakes that shook Puerto Rico’s southern coast in December 2019 and early this January, Farm Aid reached out to our partners at Visit Rico to offer support to farmers impacted by the disaster. Visit Rico, a non-profit organization whose mission is to strengthen Puerto Rico’s agricultural economy, quickly connected with farmers to assess earthquake damage.

Camille Collazo, Visit Rico’s Executive Director, relayed that many of the farmers affected by the earthquakes are currently displaced from their homes and are living in tents or with family members across the island. Some have even turned their farms into makeshift shelters for neighbors in need within their communities. Camille explained how many farmers are sleeping outside because they “prefer the night sky to a roof that might fall. Many of them are scared of returning home for fear of more earthquakes and of more cracks in their walls that might collapse.”

“[Farmers] prefer the night sky to a roof that might fall.”

With food distribution channels and kitchen spaces destroyed, farmers’ are experiencing impeded access to markets that limits their income along the southern coast and into the central interior of the island. With Visit Rico’s firsthand knowledge of the situation and suggestions on how best to reach farmers in trouble, Farm Aid has committed $10,000 to provide 20 farmers with funds to navigate the road to disaster recovery.

The video below tells the story of one of the farmers who applied for help from Visit Rico to receive funds from Farm Aid:

Farm Aid knows how resilient Puerto Rico’s farmers are–and how committed groups like Visit Rico are to building (and rebuilding) a strong system of agriculture in Puerto Rico. Farm Aid’s partnership with Visit Rico was forged in the immediate aftermath of the devastating hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. In the wake of those disasters, Farm Aid and Visit Rico mobilized to distribute $30,000 raised from generous supporters of our Family Farm Disaster Fund to 60 farmers. These funds provided the critical support farmers needed to get back on their feet and back to the island’s farmers’ markets within a few short months.

Photo courtesy of Visit Rico

Last summer, through the continued generosity of Farm Aid’s donors, Farm Aid provided another grant to support the second phase of the Regrow Puerto Rico effort. This program aims to strengthen the agricultural sector by providing farmers with grants that empower them to create sustainable agritourism and agroecological educational experiences on their farms. In turn, the farmers will generate critical additional income and support future economic development in the agricultural sector. Programs like Regrow Puerto Rico help to ensure long-term recovery from natural disasters like the hurricanes and earthquakes that have devastated the island in recent years.

Farm Aid is grateful for our continued partnership with Visit Rico, which ensures that disaster relief funds immediately reach the farmers who need them. Their critical work supports a sustainable, long-term vision for agricultural recovery and resilience on the island. All of us here at Farm Aid hold Puerto Rico’s farmers in our thoughts during this time and will continue to support Visit Rico’s efforts to help them rebuild and thrive.

If you’d like to help Puerto Rico’s farmers get back on their feet, please consider a gift today to support Farm Aid’s disaster relief work.

In 2017, Visit Rico shared this video about our partnership and how it helped Puerto Rican farmers:

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