With the recent announcement of RMA offering $2 million in supporting education projects, we’re seeing a lot of interested organizations compete for funding. Most projects underway teach farmers about crop insurance and financial skills. But risk management is so much more than buying a policy and keeping records.

One project delivers training to California farmers on wildfire preparedness, response, and recovery strategies. I recently talked to Katie Brimm, educator, writer, proud no-till farmer, and co-founder of Farmer Campus, who teaches producers skills to survive and thrive in spite of this ever present danger.

Marcia: We’re happy to see training that addresses responding to natural disasters, particularly wildfires.
Katie: We are so delighted to have the support of the RMA during a critical time for producers facing climate change. The compounding threats of climate change and pandemics threaten the sustainability of agriculture around the globe. In the Western region, the added risk of high-intensity and unpredictable wildfires threatens agricultural communities at alarming and increasing scales.

Marcia: What are aspects of the training you provide that are critical to your students?
Katie: Our 18 month project improves upon our existing ‘Farmer Build Wildfire Resilience’ online course which guides producers in practical, proven strategies for wildfire preparedness, response and recovery. Completion will result in a Wildfire Resilience Plan — a critical tool for them to systematically address vulnerabilities and risks.

Katie Brimm

Katie Brimm, Co-Founder of Farmer Campus

Marcia: You have approximately 90 students enrolling. That could have quite a positive impact for your area of the country.
Katie: Our project will enhance the quality of life for producers facing devastating threats of wildfire by equipping them with the practical tools to increase resilience to fire, in turn supporting the viability of agricultural communities. We were thrilled to be able to collaborate with RMA on such an important project, and be able to make sure it is robust and impactful due to their support.

Cedar Fire

Cedar Fire in August in the Sequoia National Forest near the community of Alta Sierra and Kernville, CA.
USDA Photo by Lance Cheung

Marcia: We appreciate the efforts of organizations like yours to train the next generation of farmers in skills they will need to stay resilient. Farming is a profession with plenty of risks involved.
Katie: Risk Management Education is so important, especially for farmers in proactively addressing the inherent uncertainties in their fields. Farmers have extremely low risk margins and thus are extremely vulnerable to shocks in the system. Without targeted education, farmers are left to face a daunting amount of risks that can blindside them to the extent they cannot recover. When given access to risk management education they instead can confront risk by first building resilience.

I thank Katie and her colleagues for the important work they are doing.

Organizations interested in this year’s funding opportunity must apply by 5:59 pm Eastern Time on March 11 through the Results Verification System at rvs.umn.edu. To learn more, view the notice of funding opportunity on grants.gov.

A broad range of risk management training activities are eligible for funding consideration, including training on Federal crop insurance options, record keeping, financial management, non-insurance-based risk management tools, and natural disaster preparedness among others. Partners can also train farmers at all levels on risk management options that help secure local food systems.

This selection process is competitive, and RMA will prioritize projects focused on underserved, organic, and specialty crop producers. Additionally, organizations providing training related to climate change, wildfire response, local foods, and urban ag will also be given stronger consideration.

– Marcia