Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How Farm Aid responded to the 2009 drought in Texas

JoelAs we move into 2010 humbled by the massive earthquake in Haiti, Farm Aid remains committed to responding to domestic natural disasters with the goal of helping family farmers see through the worst and return to health and viability.

For example, in 2009, thanks to an extremely generous gift from an individual donor, Farm Aid initiated a two-part disaster relief effort in Texas, where severe drought across large swaths of the state has damaged the land and plagued family farmers and ranchers for several years.

First, Farm Aid provided emergency grants totaling $29,500 to 59 Texas families in need. To accomplish this, we worked closely with four Texas-based organizations — Sustainable Food Center, Lutheran Social Services of the South, Texas Organic Farming and Gardening Association, and the Texas/Mexico Border Coalition — who put out the word through their networks, solicited emergency grant applications, identified farm and ranch families most in need, and delivered individual checks. One striking result of this effort was the diversity of grant recipients, ranging from conventional livestock ranchers to organic and sustainable produce farmers, and including 16 Hispanic families along the drought-afflicted border area.

The second part of our Texas drought relief work reaches into 2010 and moves beyond immediate emergency relief to how producers can mitigate the worst effects of prolonged drought. Toward this end, in late 2009 Farm Aid awarded a drought mitigation grant of $30,000 to Holistic Management International - Texas (HMI Texas) to address the health and healing of drought damaged lands in Texas and the financial success of those who manage them. HMI-Texas will use the grant funds to expand the reach of their successful "Lands-on Learning" educational field days and workshops into the state’s most severely drought-affected areas, including South Texas, the Gulf Coast, and the Valley regions. The Farm Aid grant will be used in part to help ensure that low-income producers can afford to attend the trainings, and all those producers who received emergency drought assistance will be invited to take part. Please visit the HMI-Texas website to learn more about the HMI Texas holistic approach to renewing drought-damaged lands. I also suggest you check out the website of the Texas Drought Project.

Farmers know better than anyone that natural disaster can occur at any time, without warning. The recent two-week freeze across Florida, for instance, had farmers on edge and damage assessment is ongoing. Keep us posted on what’s happening in your region at 1-800-FARM-AID or farmhelp@farmaid.org, or make use of our online Farmer Resource Network at www.farmaid.org/ideas to locate our cooperating farm support organizations in your area.

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