In Northern California, a group of about 200 farmer-volunteers — members of the nonprofit Norcal Livestock Evacuation — worked to save thousands of farm animals during this year’s California wildfire season.
The group was founded by Shelina Moreda, a fifth-generation dairy farmer, professional motorcycle racer and Covergirl model.
When COVID-19 hit, most photo shoots were canceled and Moreda headed to help on her parents’ dairies where she grew up.
Moreda was working on the family’s main ranch when the fires started this year — and she immediately called teammates at Norcal Livestock Evacuation to start organizing rescues.
Moreda started the nonprofit during 2017’s fire season, when horses near her cousin’s dairy needed saving. When she showed up with her trailer to rescue the horses, she found 15 other trucks and trailers at the ranch. Apparently, the desperate farmer had sent out many calls for help and nearly all had been answered.
It was then Moreda realized there was no system in place for rescuing livestock.
“So I ran around and got everybody’s numbers with a pencil and paper,” she said. She asked them to form a rescue team. And they did.
“You know that dairy farmers are very efficient. Like, that’s our specialty. So, I just jumped into action and started, like, ‘OK, let’s dairy farm this thing.’”
The members created maps, recruited farmers as volunteers, found people willing to donate trailers and trucks, even filed for nonprofit status. They also created a plan to send out “rescuers” who best fit each situation: for example, sending cattle ranchers to evacuate cattle.
Moreda said farmers who want to start a similar group in their area can contact her for advice at: 707-234-7193.