Friday, June 11, 2010

“Field of Greens” Disaster Relief Fund Established in Middle Tennessee

JoelThough it quickly passed from the national spotlight, the historic flooding in Tennessee in early May left major damage in its wake, especially to farms in the middle and western parts of the state.

Recent damage assessments point to moderate to severe damage to 39% of the corn crop and 21% of the winter wheat crop. Repairs to infrastructure, including roads, levees, fences, buildings, equipment, and conservation and set-aside projects, are ongoing and costly. Fruit and vegetable farms have also been hit hard, and because crop insurance coverage and federal assistance to specialty crop farms is severely inadequate, such farms often face the prospect of going out of business altogether if their season cannot be salvaged.

For this reason, I’m very happy to report that a Farm Aid-funded group, the Nashville-based Community Food Advocates (formerly Manna-Food Security Partners) has initiated “Field of Greens,” a disaster relief program for organic, sustainable, and socially disadvantaged farmers in Middle Tennessee. Farm Aid applauds Community Food Advocates for stepping up so quickly, even before the flood waters had fully receded.

The new Field of Greens program is shaping up as a model of how a regional disaster relief effort can be put together quickly. Initially, Community Food Advocates set to work gathering immediate post-flood reports from over a hundred farms showing that damage ranged from several hundred dollars to complete loss of farm and income. They then began building a coalition of willing local partners and communicating with others around the country with disaster relief experience, including Farm Aid, to put the pieces in place for the new Field of Greens program. Formalizing their effort this week, they sent out a flood damage survey to 200 more farms to gather additional evidence of damage to farms in the region.

In late June, drawing on farmer outreach models based on previous Farm Aid-funded disaster relief efforts in Iowa (2008 flood) and Texas (2009 drought), the Field of Greens executive committee will begin to solicit applications for emergency flood relief from these small and mid-sized food-producing farms, targeting those who lack access to conventional crop insurance and federal disaster relief.

Cassi Johnson, Community Food Advocates executive director, reports the Field of Greens fund has received a commitment from one local Whole Foods Market to host a 5% day later this month, and stores across the region are selling an original t-shirt that will also benefit the Fund. Other local businesses are contributing to the fund as well. In addition, the forward-looking CFA is making Field of Greens one of its permanent programs, to be activated in the event of future disasters affecting farms in Middle Tennessee. This is a major step forward for region’s sustainable farming community that until recently has largely lacked grassroots mobilizing and networking.

Farm Aid’s farmer hotline (1-800-FARM-AID and farmhelp@farmaid.org) is ready and willing to assist in the Field of Greens recovery effort. If you are a farmer or know farmers in the Middle Tennessee region affected by the flood, don’t hesitate to call us!

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