CalCAN Coalition Members Respond to the Pandemic

Posted on Tuesday, April 21st, 2020 by
CalCAN Coalition retreat in 2018, including coalition members Dave Runsten, Rebecca Spector, Jo Ann Baumgartner, Reggie Knox and Dave Henson, along with staff.

CalCAN is a coalition, working closely with a diverse network to advance our core climate and agriculture policy goals. With this collaborative approach each of our seven coalition members leads in their specific niche of the food and farming system and supports one another to advance multifaceted efforts.

In a time of physical distancing, many of our coalition members are able to continue their work remotely, while some still go out into the field to work directly with farmers at an appropriate and safe distance. All of us continue to adapt our priorities and strategies, as we respond to the needs of our farmer networks and continue to understand what working in a pandemic time looks like.

CalCAN Coalition retreat 2017, including coalition members Jane Sooby, Rebecca, Dave, Reggie, Jo Ann, Dave and staff.

California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)
Coalition representative: Jane Sooby, Senior Policy Specialist
CCOF is a nonprofit organization that advances organic agriculture for a healthy world through organic certification, education, advocacy, and promotion. The certification work continues, as CCOF staff adapt their inspection process to ensure physical distancing using more desk audits and less on-farm visits. They organized a listening session with their chapter leaders and board to hear about what their members are experiencing, how they are adapting, and to share best practices. Their farmers members are busier than ever, adapting procedures to ensure safe distancing and working to meet elevated local demand. CCOF offers a Bricmont Hardship Fund that provides grants for organic farmers experiencing financial hardship. Used in the past to support growers with recovery from wildfire and other natural disasters, the fund offers grants of $1,000-$2,500 to any certified organic producer who has experienced hardship.

Learn more and check out more of CCOF’s COVID-19 resources here.

“Things have changed dramatically for many California farmers–the situation continues to evolve rapidly and it’s still hard to pinpoint what the impacts will be once the growing season is fully underway in a month or two.” -Reggie Knox

California Farmlink
Coalition representative: Reggie Knox, Executive Director
California Farmlink invests in the prosperity of underserved farmers and ranchers through education, financing, and land access. To respond to financial hardships many farmers are experiencing, FarmLink launched an emergency loan program and is also administering forgivable loans under the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program, with details available in English and Spanish. Farmlink is also working to ensure that  federal relief funds make their way to small- and mid-scale farmers despite potential logistical challenges, and is tracking the recent $9.5 billion relief intended for local producers impacted by COVID-19.

Check out FarmLink’s COVID-19 resources here.

“Farmers are extremely busy during the pandemic: it’s not that people are eating less food, it’s just that the market avenue has changed.” -Dave Runsten

Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF)
Coalition representative: Dave Runsten, Policy Director
CAFF uses policy advocacy and on-the-ground programs to create more resilient family farms, communities, and ecosystems. With the initial state shut-down, CAFF immediately and successfully advocated to ensure that farmers markets would be designated as an essential service, and they continue to help keep these important sales avenues open for family farmers. They are also working to connect farmers who have lost corporate food service, restaurant and school food program markets with other buyers, and they are supporting those interested in starting Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs delivering fresh food directly to homes. They also share information to farmers about keeping their workers and their products virus-free. CAFF launched a California Family Farmer Emergency Fund to provide farmers with financial support, designating at least 50% of grant funds for farmers of color, immigrant farmers and undocumented farmers.

Learn more and check out their large collection of COVID-19 resources here.

“This pandemic has propelled us to find ways to provide educational content and stay connected with people all throughout the year…on another level this is an opportunity to look closely at how our food system can be made more resilient than it was before.” -Deborah Yashar, Marketing and Communications Director

Ecological Farming Association (EcoFarm)
Coalition representative: Andy Fisher, Executive Director
EcoFarm nurtures healthy, just, and ecologically sustainable farms, food systems, and communities by bringing people together for education, alliance building, advocacy, and celebration. Host of the popular annual EcoFarm Conference, EcoFarm staff have been working on how to continue convening farmers and community members in a time of widespread shelter-in-place, and are considering options for their next annual conference scheduled for January 2021. This spring they will be launching a farmer-to-farmer webinar series for farmers to connect and exchange how they are adapting and innovating in the face of crisis.

Check out EcoFarm’s COVID-19 resources webpage here.

“The pandemic is showing us how we need to eat more locally and regionally, which will cut down on the destruction of ecosystems in really wild areas.  By giving nature room, we support the climate resiliency and other benefits that these ecosystems provide.” -Jo Ann Baumgartner

Wild Farm Alliance (WFA)
Coalition representative: Jo Ann Baumgartner, Executive Director
WFA helps farms thrive by working with nature, and supporting farmers’ critical role in reversing biodiversity loss and climate change. As a technical assistance provider for the Healthy Soils Program, WFA continues to support farmers with grant applications which are due on June 26. Instead of offering educational in-person field days, like so many others, they have switched to providing digital resources, such as a multi-media platform to share stories about beneficial bird habitats on farms. They will soon release a video series, interviewing farmers, avian ecologist and other experts about increasing biodiversity on-farm.

CalCAN Coalition retreat 2019, including coalition members Andy Fisher, Dave, Dave, Jo Ann, Jane and staff.

Our coalition members that do not as often work directly with farmers continue to adapt and respond to the pandemic. Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director at the Center for Food Safety (CFS), a non-profit public interest and environmental advocacy membership organization, is our coalition representative, CFS continues their legal work and has produced a FAQ food safety during  COVID-19 with more resources on this webpage here. At the nonprofit organizing and education center and organic farm Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) our coalition representative, Dave Henson, Co-Founder and E.D. has a very busy CCOF certified nursery that has pivoted to curbside pickup to serve the surge in demand for seedlings as many home gardeners are taking refuge in home gardens during these times of sheltering in place.

The strategies and new adaptations employed by both our coalition partners and their many farmer members are providing key insights as to how we may redesign systems for a proactive approach to future crises and the ongoing climate crises, to ensure a more resilient food system for all.

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