Northern California Cultivators Plant Seeds for Recovery After Wildfires

The blazing heat of summer is here, and while we’re feeling the climate change, barely a year has passed since the Northern California fires torched Napa, Sonoma, Lake, and Mendocino counties. These areas are well-known for cannabis cultivation farms, and many were destroyed or impaired in these wildfires.

Families are still attempting to put the fragile pieces back together and bring normality back to their lives. The effects of the California wildfires on cannabis producers has gone beyond the damage to crops and loss of revenue — for some, it’s resulted in the loss of life, too.

Between Oct. 8 and Oct. 31, 2017, 250 wildfires burned across California. During the fires, more than 245,000 acres of land were burned and 8,900 buildings destroyed. The damage toll of these fires is estimated at $9.4 billion.

Once the smoke and ashes settled, communities came together to support those were affected by the devastation of the raging fires. The Redwood Credit Union set up a fire relief fund for the four Northern California counties and, to date, $32 million was raised from people all over the world. The funds were distributed to two dozen nonprofit groups. The outreach focused on assistance and recovery for the affected individuals, which included housing support, consulting and health services. A few of the nonprofits supported by the North Bay’s Fire Relief funds are St. Vincent De Paul Santa Rosa, Redwood Empire Food Bank, Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County, Jewish Community Free Clinic, and Santa Rosa Community Health Center.

Anticipating the Jan. 1, 2018, legalization of cannabis after the passage of Proposition 64, many longtime cultivators abandoned their longtime cannabis businesses as they waited for licensing, permits, and regulations to be ironed out. New cultivators are making a change to the once-artisanal landscape, with automated large-scale farms.

The community in these burn areas continues the healing process, but it has a long way to go before returning to normal. With counseling and business support, the Northern California cultivation communities hope to recover and participate in future harvests.

While the North Bay Fire Relief Fund is closed, those interested in providing aid can still help  by supporting the American Red Cross California Wildfire Relief Program. During the October wildfires, the Red Cross provided mental health services to more than 5,500 people.

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