A few Saturdays ago, our multi-disciplinary team presented the last webinar about Produce Safety after Wildfire. I’m really proud of being part of this collective of community driven research and the crucial foundation it will hopefully lay for subsequent work in this arena.
Each fire event is unique and the composition of ash, site history, and personal health of each individual needs to be considered when determining how to grow food safely after a wildfire event. This project offers a baseline of information that needs to be expanded upon.
Unfortunately, wildfires seem to be occurring more regularly and the impact of smoke and ash on our living landscapes is an area with little research or data. As we move into an era where regional food systems are recognized as crucial for community food security and resiliency, it is our hope that people can make informed decisions about gardening in areas devastated by fires.
The first workshop our group offered was about the impact of cumulative (or non-point source) ash and smoke on gardens. Another way to say this is ash and smoke not from a nearby structure that burned that landed on gardens or farms. For more information on how this community driven project got started, please click here.
If you’re interested in watching that first webinar, please click here. You can also find the presentations, handouts, toolkits for communities experiencing wildfires, and other helpful resources at the UCCE Sonoma County webpage.
The final workshop was for community members who were interested in starting gardens on properties that burned. Please see the video below for our findings.
I hope this framing goes a step further in demonstrating how connected we all are to the health of our natural environments, soil, livestock, and community. To that point, our team published a toolkit for other communities to be able to conduct similar research when they find themselves in a similar situation to Sonoma County after the 2017 fires (UCCE Sonoma County site).
Further, I think we need to push some of our science-based institutions to integrate ongoing research on smoke and ash composition of each fire event. Our study sample size was restricted due to lack of funds and reflect one fire event. But if we could leverage the resources of UC, Cal State, CalFire, or another agency to work with local Master Gardeners; we would expand the baseline data for this sadly burgeoning field, provide a cumulative ash profile for each fire event that met a certain threshold, and offer real time data to community members facing the uphill battle of rebuilding after losing everything.
Please share, ask questions, push back as you see fit. Always learning!