Farmer Relief Fund American Farmland Trust's Response to Farmers Impacted by COVID-19

Few could have predicted the extent of the challenges America's agricultural community would face at the hands of COVID-19. Farmer's market, restaurant, school and institution closures meant immediate financial losses for farmers, while supply chain disruptions and social distancing safety regulations completely upended the spring season for many farms and ranches. These challenges have been amplified for small to midsize farm operations that typically don't receive funding from government stimulus packages or crop insurance programs. The need for relief was acutely apparent and AFT launched the Farmer Relief Fund in response, with the goal of getting monies to struggling farmers quickly.

During a three week window in March and April, over 5,000 farmers from every state and U.S. territories applied to AFT's Farmer Relief Fund. In total, AFT awarded $1,000 grants to more than 1,600 farmers— the result of an incredible outpouring of support from AFT members, corporate partners, and countless others looking to protect local food access and the hard-working farmers and farm families in agricultural communities across the country.

Climbing Tree Farm / New Lebanon, NY

We recognized that for many small-scale farmers affected by this sudden and significant market loss, this could be their last year working on the land. These are the tireless individuals who are committed to keeping America fed every day, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Fresh Roots Farm / Mahwah, NJ

We asked our grant recipients for permission to share their stories through photos and words, and the response was overwhelming. We received hundreds of beautiful images that show the effort and love that go into producing our nation's food and fiber, and protecting our invaluable natural resources: soil, water, and working agricultural lands. Interacting with these farmers inspires all of us at AFT to work even harder to support their efforts, from all angles.

Bonnie Brae Farms / Plymouth, NH

"We have so much to be thankful for, including being awarded a $1,000 grant from American Farmland Trust. This grant helps replace some of the lost revenue from the effects of the pandemic. Thank goodness there are organizations like this around when most of the stimulus packages are not geared for folks like us."

Peace and Plenty Farm / Kelseyville, CA

Herban Farms was founded by Ras Levi Peynado in 2012. Growing up, Peynado's mother was a craftsperson at the Pike Place Market who eventually became Market Master and Farm Program Manager. His father was a fourth generation farmer in Jamaica. After a trip to Jamaica, Peynado decided to follow in his parents' footsteps and began growing herbs on an urban farm while developing recipes with his friends and family. With his Farmer Relief Fund grant, Peynado plans to buy supplies for his business, including nursery supplies for his thousands of pepper and herb starts.

Herban Farms / Seattle, WA

The Blanford Nature Center Farm is critically involved in their community, not only providing fresh fruits and veggies but also educational opportunites. The farm typically hosts a variety of school programs, summer camps, and classes to help community members connect with their food sources. They are sad to cancel many of these events this summer, but plan to use their Farmer Relief Fund grant to continue crop production to sustain their 100 member CSA.

Blanford Nature Center Farm / Grand Rapids, MI

"We all are personally affected when we greatly depend on harvest and the ability to sell it. Work for harvest is a year-round effort with money not coming in all year like other regular jobs. This is a 5th generation farm, but if our business stops we may all have to think of another way to make money."

Big Jim Farms / Los Ranchos, NM

"It's the time of year when we're adding a lot of compost and turning a lot of mulch piles, and I keep thinking, what in this current situation can be compost? How can we turn over all the fears and anxieties to transform them into nourishment for whatever is coming next."

Hilltop Community Farm / Madison, WI

Alejandra Rodriguez Boughton immigrated to the U.S. from Monterrey, Mexico in 2012 to attend business school. She struggled to find the traditional ingredients needed to cook her favorite meals from home, so she began growing them herself. Soon Rodriguez was selling chiles, spices, and herbs to restaurants across the Austin area, many of which are run by chefs who are immigrants themselves and appreciate Rodriguez's hard-to-find flavors.

La Flaca Farm / Austin, TX

“We’ve been leaving surprise bouquets of flowers and herbs for our restaurant customers. Just a little something to cheer up our friends. It’s not much, but it’s about finding ways to show each other that we’re not in this alone. If there’s anything that’s kept us going its talking to other farms and finding ways to support each other. It’s about community, kindness, gratitude, patience, and resilience.”

Alejandra Rodriguez Boughton, La Flaca Farm / Austin, TX

"I cannot tell you how excited we are to have received this grant! We are purchasing more electric fencing and movable water tanks to an area we are holistically grazing. Again, thank you!"

Barney Creek Livestock / Livingston, MT

Xee and Sua Yang are two of the Hmong flower farmers of the iconic Pike Place public market in Seattle. Market closures this spring eliminated a major source of farm income, but with their Farmer Relief Fund grant they were able to purchase seeds and bulbs to continue growing their stunning flowers.

Yang Farm / Bothell, WA

Vital Mission Farms started with a desire to grow healthy food in a responsible manner, following nature as a model to design the farm as an ecosystem. A complex balance of plants, livestock, and animals encourages increased productivity without using fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. With their Farmer Relief Fund grant, they were able to purchase food for their animals and maintain the vital, interconnected relationships of the farm elements.

Vital Mission Farms / Wadmalaw, SC

SonStone Farms in Hawaii were forced to find new ways to sell their fresh fruits, vegetables and eggs when their local farmer's market closed. They created a new farm website and have been cultivating a new consumer base. They plan to use their Farmer Relief Fund grant to support their online operation by purchasing a printer and commissioning the design of a fully functioning on-line store.

SonStone Farms / Captain Cook, HI

"COVID-19 added to already serious challenges facing family farm and ranches. Climate change, generational transition, collapsing prices, and overseas trade wars continue to threaten the near- and long-term viability of many landowners, especially those who are farming close to urban areas, where development pressure on farmland is highest. American Farmland Trust is the leading organization working to stop unsustainable farmland loss, keep farmers on their land, and help spread the adoption of environmentally sound farming practices. And thanks to you, we're also a lifeline to farmers and ranchers struggling to survive the pandemic with their operations intact."

John Piotti / CEO, American Farmland Trust