Why Bastrop County farmers started a relief program to lend tools, labor after disasters like Hurricane Harvey
Amid all the bad news this week, I was relieved to hear that local farmers aren’t doing as badly as you might expect after such a major storm.
For one, they didn’t have most of their fall crops in the ground yet, so this storm will delay their season but not wipe it out completely. Second, the rain and winds weren’t as damaging as some other storms we’ve had in recent years, including one that caused $130,000 in destruction at Tecolote Farm or the one that nearly wiped out Dewberry Hills Farm.
Farm-1-1 is a farmer assistance program based near Cedar Creek in Bastrop County that started two years ago after flooding left many area farmers with downed fences and wind-torn buildings. Directors (and farmers) Vivian and JoAnn Smotherman have since organized a network of farmers to help one another when emergencies like this strike.
Although they haven’t had any major calls in the past few days, they expect to hear from farmers later this week, after they’ve had a chance to survey the damage and make a priority list. “Farms suffer greatly during these kinds of tragedies,” Vivian Smotherman says. “When you’re talking about a herd of cattle or goats and losing your fencing or your entire crops got flooded, this can be just as devastating.”
When Farm-1-1 gets a call from a rural landowner who could use a hand, they activate their network to find farmers with equipment and labor to lend. “New farmers sink way too much money into equipment,” she says. “We try to catch people before they get so far into debt. You don’t have to go buy a tiller or a brushhog or a post-hole digger that you’ll use once. Call us up and we’ll get one over to you. Pooling equipment reduces costs throughout the community.”
The Smothermans have been farming for about 10 years, and the only evidence of the weekend’s storms are a bunch of muddy pigs that are happy for the wet earth. In the two years since they started Farm-1-1, they’ve helped 40 to 50 farms in some way or another, and they are always accepting donations to help run and grow the program. They even run a farmer thrift store to help people sell and buy equipment.
If you want to learn more about Farm-1-1 or to inquire about getting assistance or how you can help lend a hand, go to farm-1-1.org.
Other local farmer assistance programs include Texas Farmers Market’s emergency relief fund, and the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association has a comprehensive list of other disaster funds for farmers and ranchers.