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UCCE Fresno helps refugee farmers after the 2007 freeze

The Issue

The January 2007 freeze was one of the worst in California history for farmers. Losses to all crops exceeded $100 million. The recorded low temperatures ranged from 14 degrees on the west side of Fresno County to 22 degrees on the east side beginning on Jan. 12 and continuing for about seven days. Large and small farms were impacted, but the impact on Fresno County's Southeast Asian refugee farmers was especially severe because of their marketing methods and lack of monetary reserves. About 324 Fresno County Hmong, Lao and Mien farmers sell their crops at farmers markets throughout the state. They plant crops every two to three weeks for the weekly farmers markets. When the freeze hit, they lost 80 to 90 percent of the crops in the ground, which meant they had little or nothing to sell until the crops planted after the freeze were mature enough to harvest, about four to six weeks later. Some had to go on public assistance simply to put food on the table. Most had very little money for replanting. See a local news video clip about the issue.

What Has ANR Done?

UCCE Small Farms Advisor Richard Molinar served on a committee organized by the Fresno City Council to determine how the city could help. Molinar provided statistics and details to the Council, testified at hearings, and was interviewed by radio, newspaper and television in January and February explaining how the freeze impacted small-scale farmers.

Molinar served on the city's loan committee and the Fresno Regional Foundation asked him to help locate a group of farmers in need of a special grant.

The Payoff

66 Southeast Asian, African American, and Caucasian farmers receive assistance

Fresno City Council approved a $500,000 special zero-interest loan program for people living or farming in the city. The loan committee approved 35 loans to small family farmers ranging from $8,000 to $20,000 to be paid back over 4 to 10 years.

As a result of the media coverage, an anonymous donor gave a $1,000 check specifically to one of the Hmong farmers mentioned in a Los Angeles Times article. Molinar identified and recommended a group of 10 Hmong farmers (Yangs Fresh Produce) to receive a $10,000 grant from the Fresno Regional Foundation to help them in purchasing a precooler for their vegetables. An additional 20 small family farmers in the city and county who did not qualify for the zero-interest loans were given a $1,663 grant from additional monies provided by Fresno Regional Foundation, United Way and the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission.

In all, 66 Southeast Asian, African American, and Caucasian farmers received financial assistance amounting to $555,000 through these efforts.


Supporting Unit: Small Farm Program

UCCE Fresno County
Richard Molinar, (559) 456-7555, rhmolinar@ucdavis.edu