Farming Through Wildfire Season: Preparation, Resilience & Recovery

Project Overview

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:

Commodities

No commodities identified

Practices

No practices identified

Proposal 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 from proposal:

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.

The core curriculum will be developed into a user-tested workbook with accompanying online learning modules and informational clearinghouse. Our program will support agricultural professionals in using the curriculum materials in community-based efforts to effectively support their clientele.

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.