I have only had one personal experience with a flood. That was several years ago, just before Thanksgiving dinner, when a plumbing issue covered three rooms of my home in two inches of water, none of it particularly clean. The worst that happened was that Thanksgiving dinner was very late, we were very tired and hungry after the cleanup and the plumber’s bill for making an emergency house call on Thanksgiving Day was not precisely modest. Pain in the Butt Index (PITBI): 6 on a scale of 1 to 10.
For local farmers in Georgia, recent floods have pushed the PITBI completely off the scale.
Can you imagine having absolutely everything you own covered in muck, everything you’ve worked for washed away, your ability to make a living eliminated, and even the land you’ve intended to pass on to your children turned into a clay-laden silt pile? Yeah, me neither. But that’s what small farmers in Georgia are dealing with, and I hope some of our great GRIT community will be able to lend a helping hand, in whatever way they can.
In September, heavy rains combined with already saturated ground created serious flooding in several Georgia counties, and inundated parts of urban Atlanta. Unlike its anemic response immediately after Katrina, this time the Federal Emergency Management Agency appears to be responding quickly to give residents relief to help get their lives back on track. The catch is, FEMA doesn’t cover agricultural operations. Small farmers have been referred to state agencies, but those agencies only provide loans and these farms operate on such slender margins, a loan would sink them as surely as the flood.
By most measures, this group of farmers is doing things right. They are mostly families, growing as organically as possible, selling to local markets and farming in a way that respects the environment and provides nutritious food to their communities. Some operate as Community Supported Agriculture, offering subscriptions to their farms. They belong to their communities, their communities belong to them.
If these were larger agricultural endeavors, they might be able to bear the weight of a loan while they get reestablished. Small farms operate much closer to the bone and these floods have cut very deeply into their ability to survive. Their livestock drowned, their topsoil washed away, their fall crops were destroyed. That’s about as dire as it gets.
Their best hope right now is the fundraising being done by groups such as Slow Food Atlanta. You can read more about their efforts here: http://www.slowfoodatlanta.org/slow_food_atl_news.html
I’m sending a check today and will ask friends involved in local food groups in my area to see what we can do to help out. I hope some of you can do the same – and let us know if you can think of other ways to assist.
And once the crisis has passed, we all need to let our public officials that some provision needs to be made so public relief efforts include the small farmers who raise our food and steward our land.
Funds sent to “Georgia Flooded Farms Relief Fund” will be given directly to local farmers. Here’s the address: