Pie Ranch rebuilds after devastating fires with help from SVCF Wildfire Relief Fund

Pie Ranch rebuilds after devastating fires with help from SVCF Wildfire Relief Fund

In August 2020, the CZU Lightning Complex fire burned Pie Ranch, a nonprofit sustainable farm in Pescadero that provides agriculture education for local youth and aspiring organic farmers. Pie Ranch’s 157-year-old farmhouse was destroyed, as was its irrigation system and greenhouse, among other losses.

“For close to 20 years, Pie Ranch has provided valuable farm system and land stewardship educational experiences to youth throughout our region,” said Manuel Santamaria, SVCF vice president of community action. “After the devastating fires last year, Pie Ranch’s services and practices are needed even more.”

Soon after the fire, Pie Ranch received a grant from the SVCF Wildfire Relief Fund to rebuild, and in the process partnered with fellow SVCF grantee the Amah Matsun Land Trust to incorporate indigenous land management practices.

In an SVCF webinar in November, Pie Ranch co-founder and Director of Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives Jered Lawson said of the collaboration, “Together, we’ve walked the region and had various meetings to look at the landscape beyond individual property boundaries and have a more strategic, thoughtful, regional approach to the fire recovery -- not only for our immediate needs, but really looking at the strategies that will help us be more resilient in addressing climate change and the consequences of future fires.”

A farmhouse that burned down in Pie Ranch

Raul L. Garcia, Pie Ranch’s director of development, said SVCF’s grant helped the farm take care of urgent short-term work while, at the same time, making investments in equipment and infrastructure that will serve Pie Ranch years into the future.

“SVCF’s grant meant we could quickly start clearing hazards and address relief and safety efforts,” Garcia said. “But after that, it also allowed us to plan. We were able to get the partnership going with the Amah Mutsun Native Stewardship Corps. We were able to acquire new equipment: for communications, chainsaws, a dump trailer and other useful tools. We needed all these things to restore the land and build the land’s resiliency, but it will also help us build our program’s resiliency.”

It’s a big job. Garcia said that restoration has been ongoing, but it took until March 2021 to finally get to necessary work directly around the farmhouse and Pie Ranch buildings. But he’s also optimistic about Pie Ranch’s future.

He said, “After debris removal, we’ll take the next steps with the Amah Mutsun to replant with native seeds, shrubs and trees as part of our land restoration plan. Ultimately, we’re recovering from the disaster while building resilience to anything disastrous in the future, not just wildfires.”

The SVCF Wildfire Relief Fund was established to help recovery efforts after the 2020 wildfires that endangered communities in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Click here to stay up to date with SVCF’s work as a catalyst for community change.