Wildfires Updates and How You Can Help | CUESA

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August 28, 2020

Wildfires Updates and How You Can Help


As we face another devastating wildfire season, our thoughts are with our farmers and community impacted by the fires still burning across California. More than 1.3 million acres and 2,000 structures have burned, and thousands of residents have had to evacuate. Several of our farmers evacuated their homes and properties last week, but some have started to return, including Root Down FarmFifth Crow Farm, and Blue House Farm. We’ve gathered some updates from our farmers and resources for how you can help below.

The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is scheduled to be open as usual this weekend. We are closely monitoring the air quality and have been keeping in touch with our farmers and sellers. We expect most of them to be present, as they rely on the farmers market as a critical part of their livelihoods. Check here for attendance updates or visit the CUESA Info Booth if you have questions about a particular seller.

One of the best ways you can help our community is to support them at the farmers market. Please stay safe and exercise caution venturing outside. Take precautions such as limiting your exertion and time outside and wearing a protective (N95) mask, if you have one. Wear a cloth mask over a N95 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those with sensitive medical conditions should stay indoors. Check for air quality updates at baaqmd.gov.

Amidst the pandemic, heatwaves, and now wildfires, farmers and farm workers are facing agonizing decisions, pitting their health and safety against their livelihoods. As catastrophic wildfire seasons have become the new normal in the age of climate change, fires, power outages, and smoke all have enormous impacts on small farmers, who are already operating on razor-thin margins. Meanwhile, breathing in heavy smoke poses major hazards and risks to farmers’ and workers’ health. 

Coming together as a community to feed and take care of each other is vital. Please stay safe, and thank you for supporting our farmers and community through these challenging times.

Updates from Our Farms

Several of our Ferry Plaza and Mission farms, including Root Down FarmFifth Crow Farm, Swanton Berry Farm, and Blue House Farm in Pescadero, had to evacuate their properties. Swanton Berry Farm estimates having lost upwards of $30,000 in income, and several of their workers have also lost their homes and have set up a fundraiser to support their workers. Donate to the Swanton Berry Farm fundraiser.

Root Down, Fifth Crow, and Blue House have been able to access their farms and are planning to be at our farmers markets this week, including the Ferry Plaza on Saturdays and Mission Community Market on Thursday.


As of writing this (Saturday at 7:45pm), the farmstand in Davenport, our farmworker housing, associated buildings & fields are all untouched by the fire. They are still however under threat. Our fields at Coastways Ranch are also safe at the time of writing, though fire just burned up to the fence line & is smoldering. The #czulightningcomplex fire has recently devastated our very close community, including other nearby farms as well as the homes of members of our staff. As we write this, our county is continuing to be ravaged by one of the worst fires in the state. Our hearts are breaking for the over 77,000 people evacuated from their homes, some who will return to nothing. We know this community is one of the strongest, most resilient out there & we know we will get through this indescribable loss together, holding each other up. Please note: There is a GoFundMe page that was set up by a past employee, if you have the means & feel the need to donate. (Linked in bio). Our plan is to use the money raised to put cash in the hands of our employees, as a way to compensate for lost wages & possibly to re-locate if the need arises. We want to thank each and everyone who has supported another member of their community during this, and to our fire crews (two past employees especially) for tirelessly working to contain this fire. Our hearts are torn wide open; together we will adapt and rebuild. Repost from @ddolatschkophoto - I have never seen sky colors like this. No filter. Raw soot. This terrifying wildfire hopefully will teach us to listen to Mother Nature and think more about climate change in the future. It’s real. It’s here and it hurts. Stay safe everybody #staystrong #santacruz #santacruzmountains #davenport #santacruzfire #cityofsantacruz #yoursantacruz

A post shared by Swanton Berry Farm (@swantonberryfarm) on


Farm update... we are all okay! We evacuated a week ago, as well as our pigs, dogs and turkeys. Our 3000+ chickens and ducks are still there. The fire is still burning directly across the street but very slowly. The farm is good and safe for now but please keep the good thoughts coming so it remains that way. The strength and resilience of this community blows my mind. I’ve had to lean on so many and have watched us selflessly take care of each other. Our hearts are so heavy with the distruction this fire has caused to our neighbors and friends. So many people ask how they can help.. follow these farms that have lost so much and help them recover and rebuild: @pie_ranch @greenoakscreekfarm @brisaranch @swantonberryfarm

A post shared by Root Down Farm (@rootdownfarm) on

Other farms have lost structures, homes, equipment, orchards, crops, and more, while many farmworkers have lost their homes and been displaced. See the links below for ways you can support and donate.


Our bodies are exhausted, but our spirits are high after so much support from people willing to help us rebuild. We honestly could not feel more gratitude. There is so much work to come, but it feels far less daunting with so much love. If you have not done so already and are looking for ways to help, please see our last post from yesterday for ways to help. We’d like to give a huge shoutout to @alexandra_lv and @anak0426 who have done an amazing job remotely creating and organizing our GoFundMe campaign and volunteer sign ups while we’ve been busy fighting fires and scrambling to keep our farm going and crops irrigated. We’d also like to give a huge shout out our families and friends who have been getting much needed supplies, food, etc to us and to @gabylee from @lunariaflowerfarm who spent all day yesterday laying drip tape for us as we had to change much of our irrigation system due to the previous one being destroyed. To everyone who has helped us in continuing to fulfill our dreams in the face of so much adversity, thank you, thank you, thank you. #pescadero #pescaderostrong

A post shared by Brisa de Año Ranch (@brisaranch) on

How You Can Help

Relief efforts for the victims of these destructive fires will be ongoing in the weeks and months ahead. Here are some organizations supporting farms, farmworkers, and rural families, as well as fundraisers for farms who have been impacted.

Community Alliance for Family Farms

CAFF has re-launched its California Family Farmer Emergency Fund, offering direct support to our agricultural community impacted by disaster, in particular farmers and farmworkers who fall through the cracks of traditional safety nets. 


Serving rural San Mateo County South Coast communities, Puente has joined the Red Cross, Human Services, and the Sheriff’s Department to set up an evacuation center to support families impacted by the CZU Lightning Complex fires. Donate to the Puente Emergency Fire Relief Fund for South Coast Families.


In the North Bay, UndocuFund is assisting victims of the LNU Lightning Complex fires and continues to help victims impacted by COVID-19 in Sonoma County.

United Farm Workers

UFW Foundation has been working to protect frontline farmworkers through the pandemic, heat waves, and wildfires by providing protective equipment, offering disaster assistance, and more. Contribute to their wildfires fund.

Also see Eater’s 5 Food-Focused Ways to Help the Victims of the NorCal Wildfires.

Fundraisers for Specific Farms

Here are some fundraisers set up to help specific farms and their workers recover and rebuild:

For updates on additional farms to support, check out Save the Farms.

Read More

Swanton Berry Farm photo by Dagmar Dolatschko reprinted with permission.


CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to growing thriving communities through the power and joy of local food. Learn More »