by Sofia Englund
After the Fire: How to Support Sonoma County Farmers, Restaurants, Wineries and Stores
by Sofia Englund
Two weeks after the Kincade fire sparked in northern Sonoma County, local businesses are taking to social media to welcome visitors back to the area. After week-long closures due to power shutoffs and mandatory evacuation orders, they are eager to let the public know that Sonoma County is open for business. And understandably so: in a region where much of the local economy relies on tourism, the effects of natural disasters like the Kincade fire — now fully contained — can linger and negatively impact businesses for weeks, months, even years to come.
This is the second time in two years that fires have burned in Sonoma County during the bustling harvest season — in October 2017, the Tubbs, Nuns and Pocket fires raged for three weeks. Last year, smoke from the Camp fire in Butte County blanketed the area in November and, in February of this year, floods damaged businesses and homes in Guerneville and Sebastopol.
Fortunately, the local community remains resilient. Just as in October 2017 and in February of this year, the outpouring of support and generosity is again prevalent. Sonoma County will recover from this recent blow and while it does, we will continue to celebrate this beautiful place we’re proud to call home. If you’d like to show local businesses a little extra love in the weeks and months to come, we’ve rounded up a few ideas — click on the hyperlinks for details.
Week-long closures due to power shutoffs and evacuation orders have delivered a blow to local retailers, especially small independently owned stores already struggling to compete with national chains and online megastores. Many businesses have lost critical sales during the normally busy harvest season as threats of fire have kept customers away.
To support Sonoma County stores, consider shopping local this holiday season: For every $100 spent at one of these businesses, $68 stays in the community, according to the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. Meanwhile, spending $100 at a big-box store contributes only $32 to the local economy, while the rise of online shopping continues to disrupt traditional retail. Visit our shopping page for inspiration, and sign up to our Retail Therapy newsletter.
Support Sonoma County Farmers
Closed farmers markets, evacuations and lost refrigeration due to power outages have devastated small family farms throughout the region over the last two weeks. Many count on weekly markets as a significant source of revenue and thousands of pounds of perfect produce have been reduced to compost.
To support your local farmers and ranchers, think about making warm butternut squash soup, braised greens, and French onion soup from local farmers produce or cook up a hearty meat stew with beef from local ranchers. Many farmers also have lots of salad greens to sell quickly — so eat healthily, while helping the farmers. Even better, join a CSA, which will help farms throughout the season.
Year-round farmers markets include Petaluma East Side Farmers Market, Santa Rosa Farmers Market, Sebastopol Farmers Market, Sonoma Valley Certified Farmer’s Market. Cloverdale Community Market & Exchange and Windsor Certified Farmer’s Market are open until mid-December. — Heather Irwin
Eat at Sonoma County Restaurants
The Kincade fire has been a triple whammy for local restaurants, who lost power, lost customers and continue to struggle with lackluster tourism. Most restaurants store hundreds of pounds of food in large “walk-in” refrigerators — from meat and dairy to prepared stock, vegetables and fruit.
The Sonoma County Tourism Bureau estimates that each power outage costs restaurateurs $4,700, something they can’t easily afford repeatedly. Restaurant workers lose salary, producers lose restaurant business, and it takes months or years to recoup (if at all) when profit margins average 5 percent.
We’ve been glad to see some restaurants packed in the last few days, but they’ll continue to need local support through the quiet winter season. How to help: Book a holiday party, take a friend out, schedule a date night or just head out by yourself for a glass of wine and an appetizer. You could also eat your way through this list of 50 dishes locals can’t live without.
Prefer to dine at home? Eat your way through this list of iconic Sonoma County foods. From Liberty Farms duck to Dungeness crab, olive oil to local peaches — you’ve got work to do for a good cause. Find more dining inspiration on BiteClub. — Heather Irwin
Visit Sonoma County Wineries and Buy Local Wines
Out of the more than 400 wineries in Sonoma County, only one winery — Soda Rock Winery in Healdsburg — was destroyed by the Kincade fire. Now that the fire is fully contained, power has been restored and evacuation orders lifted, most wineries and tasting rooms have resumed normal opening hours.
If you’re planning a visit to Sonoma wine country in the coming weeks and months, you will have plenty to look forward to: in addition to serving award-winning wines, many of the local wineries are hosting holiday events.
Support Alexander Valley wineries, which were especially impacted by the fire and give a little extra love to small wine producers. New to Sonoma County? Here are a few great wineries for first-time visitors.
Discover Healdsburg, Geyserville and Windsor
The Kincade fire came alarmingly close to Healdsburg, Geyserville and Windsor. It burned 77,758 acres in the surrounding area and destroyed 374 buildings, including 174 homes, but thanks to the valiant efforts of firefighters from across the United States, California and Sonoma County, devastation on the scale following the October 2017 fires was averted.
As the fire is now fully contained, the three towns — each with its own particular charm — are welcoming visitors again.
Healdsburg, with its picturesque plaza surrounded by award-winning wineries and restaurants, makes for an idyllic introduction to wine country. The tiny town of Geyserville, with top notch restaurants, tasting rooms and vintage shops, is a hidden gem.
Stay in Sonoma County
Escaping the Midwest winter with a trip to Wine Country? Looking for a quick weekend getaway from San Francisco? Or maybe you’re just a Petaluman in search of a fun staycation in your own backyard? Rest your head at local hotels, inns and B&Bs, after shopping, drinking and eating your way through Sonoma County. These hotels offer a little extra for those on a budget.
If you’d like to support fire recovery efforts in Sonoma County by making a financial donation, there are a number of organizations to consider: The Community Foundation of Sonoma County’s Resilience Fund continues to accept donations to support the mid- and long-term recovery needs of individuals and families; The Latino Community Foundation’s NorCal Wildfire Relief Fund supports nonprofits that provide essential sheltering and supportive services to Latino immigrants and farmworkers affected by the fire; The UndocuFund for Fire Relief in Sonoma County provides direct funding to undocumented immigrants and their families in Sonoma County to help with fire-related expenses.
Find more ways to donate money here.
There are over 1,500 nonprofits in Sonoma County — many are volunteer operated. If you’re able to donate your time — a little or a lot — this can have a tremendous impact. The best place to start is the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County, which places thousands of volunteers with their “right match” nonprofits annually.
The Redwood Empire Food Bank, the “largest hunger-relief organization serving north coastal California from Sonoma County to the Oregon border,” deployed its emergency response program, Station 3990, during the Kincade fire. To volunteer at the food bank — includes helping out in the kitchen and with food distribution — sign up for a shift here.
Find more ways to volunteer here.
This article originally appeared on Sonoma Magazine.