Farming Through Wildfire Season: Preparation, Resilience & Recovery

Progress report for WPDP21-005

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $74,108.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2023
Host Institution Award ID: G226-22-W8617
Grant Recipient: Community Alliance with Family Farmers
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Evan Wiig
Community Alliance with Family Farmers
Co-Investigators:
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Project Information

Abstract:

The compounding threats of climate change and pandemics threaten the sustainability of agriculture around the globe. In the Western region, the added risk of high-intensity and unpredictable wildfires threatens agricultural communities at alarming and increasing scales. This project provides timely training to agricultural professionals on wildfire disaster preparedness, response and recovery. Our project will be based on six years of climate risk education, four years of wildfire and disaster risk management and four years of resilience research with impacted producers in California. Though California is the most agriculturally productive state in the United States, it is also the one at greatest risk to the threat of wildfires. California’s farmers are increasingly confronted with wildfires through direct farm losses, smoke and ash health hazards, lost markets and time, evacuations and power outages. Our experience in on-the-ground response and research have shown us the critical need for educational resources for these communities.

To support the economic and social sustainability of rural agricultural communities our project will develop the ‘Farming Through the Wildfire Season’ course which guides agricultural professionals in practical, proven strategies for risk reduction, wildfire preparedness, disaster response and recovery. The course includes multimedia resources and a workbook which supports self-assessments and activities designed for farm and regional level analysis. Completion will result in a Wildfire Resilience Plan tailored to producers’ businesses. The workbook will be accompanied by online modules and a Disaster Resilience Clearinghouse. In addition, the project team will conduct workshops training agricultural professionals in high-risk western regions on how to use the curriculum in their communities and on key aspects of wildfire readiness. 

Our project will enhance the quality of life for producers facing devastating threats of wildfire by equipping them with the practical tools to increase resilience to fire, in turn supporting the viability of agricultural communities.

Project Objectives:

The goal of this project is to develop an activity-based, multimedia curriculum which is readily adaptable to diverse regional priorities and is appropriate for teaching farmers and ranchers how to attain wildfire resilience. Wildfire resilience refers to the capacity of agricultural communities to reduce their fire vulnerability and their ability to adapt and transform in response. We conceptualize resilience across multiple scales (farm, region, state) and across multiple phases (disaster risk management, preparedness, response and recovery). Our program elucidates tested strategies that support communities whose livelihoods depend on fire adapted ecosystems. 

The overall outcome of this project is to increase the capacity of Cooperative Extension advisors, NRCS field staff, farm advisors, disaster response personnel and other agricultural professionals to apply the knowledge of wildfire resilience with their clientele (farmers, ranchers, farmworkers, agricultural communities and governments). Generally, this will be accomplished through creating highly targeted educational materials and workshops that will:

  1. Enhance agricultural professionals understanding of the potential impacts of wildfires to agricultural producers and farming communities 
  2. Support agricultural professionals in evaluating their clients’ vulnerability and response capacity to wildfire. 
  3. Increase agricultural professionals' ability to assist their clientele in developing a wildfire resilience plan based on their prior assessment of their wildfire vulnerability.
  4. Increase agricultural professional’s knowledge around the networks, resources and policies available and needed to address fires. Professionals will review social, nonprofit and government resources available for fire prevention, preparation and recovery.
  5. Extend the knowledge of disaster management best-practices to agricultural professionals.
  6. Support agricultural professionals in creating fire response and prevention networks where producers commit to building preparedness in their region.

A draft of the core curriculum has been developed as of January 2022. Our program will support agricultural professionals in using the curriculum materials in community-based efforts to effectively support their clientele.

Timeline:

This two year project will begin with regular team meetings and curriculum development. The curriculum development will be led by the Co-PIs and will be based on a needs assessment of 65 producers and of 224 extension personnel conducted in 2019. The development of activities in the workbook will be supported by a UC Davis PhD research project carried out between 2019-2022 that identifies the variations of wildfire vulnerability and adaptive capacity that exists amongst farmers and farming communities. 

Year One Fall 2021 - Fall 2022 - Curriculum Development

The project team will hold at least two full day intensives to review drafts of the Farming through Wildfire Season curriculum. Then, the curriculum development team will integrate feedback and team members will be assigned specific tasks for individual curriculum segments. Once developed, a blind review of the workbook will be conducted by a select group of 5 professionals and 5 producers. Reviewers will represent a range of geographic regions, production sizes and practices to increase applicability of the materials. The curriculum development team will integrate the results from the review and create a final draft of the workbook to be finalized with the project team.

Once the content of the workbook is complete the project team will identify which learning modules are needed to accompany the workbook. Case Study (farmer) stories and expert contributors for the learning modules will be selected, recorded and edited. The workshop agenda and content will be drafted and circulated to the project team. After circulating all final materials (workbook, learning modules and workshop agenda) to the project team, a virtual meeting will address final questions and concerns. 

All curriculum materials will be made freely available online, on the curriculum website, by the end of the first year of the project. Including CAFF’s disaster clearinghouse which will be updated regularly through the project period.

Year Two: Fall 2022 - Fall 2023 - Workshops

Four trainings will be conducted in regions that are at high-risk to wildfires. At least 60 agricultural service providers will be trained on how to use the curriculum as well as on key aspects of wildfire readiness and resilience. These agricultural professionals will then go on to work with the clientele.

Recruitment for these events will begin in the Fall of 2022, however we will announce the launch of our project to attract more partners and participants as soon as the Fall 2021.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Katie Brimm (Educator)
  • Vikram Koundinya (Researcher)
  • Dagoberto Osario (Educator and Researcher)

Education & Outreach Initiatives

No Activities Yet
Objective:

We have not completed any educational outreach activities yet as we just started the project in late 2021 and our timeline doesn't include any educational outreach activities until late 2022.

Description:

Please see the objective above for explanation. In trying to submit the annual report it is making me fill in information for this field, even though we have nothing to report.

Outcomes and impacts:

Not applicable yet. 

Project Outcomes

1 Grant received that built upon this project
1 New working collaboration
Project outcomes:

We have just started this project in late 2021. We have secured another grant with the Red Cross to fund wildfire resilience work with farmers. We look forward to making significant progress on this project in 2022. 

Recommendations:

It's too early in the project to make any recommendations at this point. 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.