Wildfires have done quite a bit of damage in the United States this year. Fires raged across California and Colorado, destroying homes, businesses, and, unfortunately, farmers’ crops and ranchers’ livestock.
Any fire damage to crops is devastating. All of the time and effort you put into tilling the land, planting seeds, and caring for animals is suddenly gone. Yet, wildfires can be good for regrowth, and though it takes time, you can recover from wildfires too.
Understand That It Takes Time
Because of the significant amount of damage a fire may do to your land, it’s going to take a few years for the land to fully restore to what it was before the fire. In those few years, smaller plants and grasses may begin to grow, so just be patient with the land. If you decide to regerminate, make sure you can financially afford it and have a valid reason to do so.
Additionally, fruit trees and vines may not show their full damage until the next year, so before uprooting them, wait until the spring to identify whether they’re worth keeping.
Examine Your Crops, Livestock, and Structures
Once it is safe to return to your farm, you’ll want to examine your land. Take stock of the damage. Note any buildings, trees, or crops that burned down, and take photos of those as well. If you apply for an assistance program, you’ll have proof of what happened.
Be specific about each item on your farm so you can report the damage accurately and get a possible grant or loan to help rebuild. For trees, examine the trunk. If there is damage to the trunk, the tree is a loss. However, if there is only damage to the upper canopy, you can trim that away and give the tree a good chance of survival.
Save Your Money
It may be difficult to not immediately spend all of the money you have to recover the land you lost. It’s best in this situation to save your money, though.
You probably make most, if not all, of your living on farming or ranching. If the land on which your farm is damaged by a wildfire, there’s no way to continue making money from it until the land restores or you have ample resources to provide for your animals. Resist the urge to begin rebuilding right away and apply for assistance programs.
There are quite a few resources for farmers and ranchers who have experienced a disaster like a forest fire. These resources can help you recover with your crops, orchards, or livestock:
- Livestock indemnity program: If you lost a majority of your livestock because of the wildfire or any other natural causes, you could get up to 75% of the livestock’s value.
- Tree assistance program: This program helps orchardists or tree nursery workers, who qualify, to replant any trees that were lost.
- Noninsured crop disaster assistance program: For those with noninsured crops, this provides financial help if you have low yields or lose your crops to natural occurrences.
There are many more programs and loans or grants available to farmers and ranchers to help them recover from a fire. Research your local government and federal programs, and see if you qualify for assistance.
Take Preventive Measures
While it’s nearly impossible to prevent a raging wildfire entirely, you can take action to mitigate your losses in case one does occur. Everyone who works or lives on your farm should be aware of what to do in case of a fire. Create and share an evacuation plan, which may include how to evacuate livestock.
Make sure your farm has adequate resources, like food and water for animals or an irrigation ditch. Keep combustible materials away from crops, orchards or livestock, barns, tractors, and other heavy equipment. If you have a gas storage tank, make sure it is situated aboveground and away from buildings.
Your Safety Is Most Important
In the midst of a fire, it can be hard to think about yourself, especially when you have crops, orchards, and livestock that are your source of income. However, you want to ensure that you, your family and anyone you have working for you are safe first.
It’s no doubt that wildfires can take a heavy toll. Do what you can to take preventive measures, and seek assistance programs to help you recover from any damage that occurred.