Because I hadn’t attended a disaster relief training before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect earlier this week when Ted and I traveled down to Gainesville, Florida. But it made good sense that Farm Aid was sponsoring this training in Florida, where farmers must contend with hurricane season every year. And the best news to come out of the visit was that there are farm advocates there to help farmers figure out how to get help and what kinds of assistance they are eligible for. Disaster trainings are designed to make sure that people who want to help do this work have the best and most up to date information.
This applies even to organic farmers, who have often fallen through the loopholes in federal regulations regarding what kinds of farms can qualify for disaster relief. However, this process can often be complicated and overwhelming to farmers who are also recovering from a major disaster.
The training in Gainesville was sponsored by Farm Aid and hosted the Florida Organic Growers (FOG), so most of the farmers attending were organic growers. Everyone attending got an object lesson in why such training is important when one of the farmer attendees got a phone call telling her she had finally received payment (after two years!) for storm damage to her farm in 2004.
Two veteran disaster relief trainers, Scott Marlow of the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) and Jill Krueger of Farmers Legal Action Group (FLAG), did a great job of leading attendees through the ins and outs of federal disaster relief programs. Kudos to Marty Mesh and Juan Carlos Rodgriguez of FOG, who organized and hosted the training, which was held at the Farm Bureau office in Gainesville. Marty took several of us on a walk one evening through a swampy conservation area on the edge of Gainesville…and I got as close as I ever want to be to a wild ‘gator, who seemed to be eyeing this corn-fed Iowa boy as a snack before dinner. Yikes!