Local small farmers hold empty plates, illustrating drought impacts on local agriculture.
photo credit: (Credit: Marc Albert/KRCB)
About two dozen small farmers gathered on a withered field on Santa Rosa's edge Wednesday, hoping to pressure state officials for financial relief.
 
"We don't know when our well is going to say 'no' can't take this drought anymore," said Yael Bernier, who dry farms grapes along with vegetables in the Dry Creek Valley. Like hundreds of other local small farmers, she's wondering when her luck will turn.
 
"It does sputter, we do pump air, but it's not incredibly unusual for our well to do that. Still, we don't know. We know that...we just don't know. We don't know how much water we have."
 
Bernier is concerned that better-resourced growers, with deeper wells, will eventually make her life here untenable.
 
"In the hot weather they'll water every day. It's horrible. They're just dripping, but still, it's a lot of water, especially when it's acres and acres and acres of vineyards," she added.
 
Evan Wiig, of Community Alliance with Family Farmers acknowledged that Sacramento can't conjure water, but it can help.
 
"We're asking for the state to step in. We saw it during COVID. We saw the government step in and say our restaurants are hurting, our small businesses are hurting and they provided emergency relief to make sure that during this crisis, these businesses (would still be) here, when this is all over. And we're asking for the same thing right now for our small farms," he said.
 
Caiti Hachmyer, who has farmed a small plot near Sebastopol for a dozen years, said most farm aid isn't helping those that do the real work.
 
"Something like 40 percent of California farmers rent their land and most of the federal drought relief is allocated or made available to folks that grow perennials and raise livestock."
 
Wiig's group is asking for $87 million from the state as direct payments to small farmers, and as aid to help them invest in stingier irrigation set-ups.
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