In an effort to recoup some of the significant fire loss sustained in the October, 2007 fire, farmer Donna filled out the paperwork with the USDA's Natural Resources Conservatin Service which provides very small grants to farmers to pay for a portion of restoring micro irrigation, mulch and also for debris removal. It's not significant compared to our loss, but hey, it's better than a kick in the butt. I actually had to sign a contract promising to continue farming for a certain length of time after tax payers had helped to restore me, and also to allow the USDA to come onto my farm for inspections to make sure they were getting what they were paying a portion of; i.e. new irrigation pipes and new mulch.
No sooner was the ink dry on the contract which I signed last Thursday, January 30, when the Natural Resources Conservation Service sent me a letter, dated the very next day, to halt labor on my farm until August 31st so that we might avoid the nesting/breeding season of the California Gnatcatcher. They also said in the letter that I could only use native seed, must avoid coastal sage scrub whether it's burned or unburned, and that I must avoid my creek (watering half the farm) completely. I'm not sure what I could grow that would be from native seed that wouldn't require water and that my customers would want to eat. Acorns maybe?
What have I wrought? I called the office where I signed the documents to express my thoughts, but the decision-maker is on vacation.
To be continued.....