Growers impacted by Thomas Fire receiving assistance

Posted at 5:47 PM, Jan 05, 2018

Growers impacted by the Thomas Fire had a chance Friday to learn about the assistance available to them. 

The Sparks grow cherimoya trees but lost most of their crop due to smoke damage.

"In the smoke, there is a gas, ethylene. All of that ethylene gets into the fruit and ripens it prematurely, even the immature fruit ripens and falls to the ground," said Terry Sparks. 

The family says they lost approximately $35,000 worth of their crop. 

"Would be nice to get reimbursed for the loss," said Leigh Sparks. 

The Santa Barbara County Agricultural Department put together an assistance workshop with a number of representatives who could provide aid to growers for their loss. 

"There are equipment grant services to help pay for rebuilding fences, irrigation systems. There is all kinds of other grant services that are federally based that will help them," said Kathy Fisher, Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner. 

Farmer Ben Van Der Kar grows avocado, lemon, and cherimoya trees. 

He says his ranch in Carpinteria lost about a third of its crop.

"Looks like they will be able to do some cost sharing on replacing pipe and they have a tree assistance program where they can help us replace trees that were lost by the fire," Van Der Kar said. 

The farmers most impacted by the Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara County are avocado, cherimoya and cut flower growers. 

The county said the workshop also served as an opportunity to gather information for an agricultural damage assessment report.