Sharing Agriculture with Tomorrow's Leaders Today
By Taylor Pires
Eighty high school juniors are more informed about Sonoma County agriculture after a day with Farm Bureau members. On October 13 and 20, students from Santa Rosa, Montgomery, Elsie Allen, Piner, Cardinal Newman, Maria Carrillo and Technology high schools learned about dairying, wastewater treatment, specialty mushrooms, apples, vineyards and produce. New perspectives on agriculture and their community were made possible through tours facilitated by the Sonoma County Farm Bureau and the Tomorrow’s Leaders Today (TLT) program.
TLT prepares Sonoma County youth for their future via three different pillars: leadership, careers and community. Students explore Sonoma County law enforcement, human services, community service learning, government, health, planning and development, business, tourism and communication, and agriculture and natural resources, as part of the leadership program. Farm Bureau designed the agriculture and natural resources tours to show students the diversity of agriculture and farming practices in Sonoma County, and how they are connected to preserving our natural resources.
Santa Rosa TLT program coordinator, Lauren Taylor, shared why she chose to work with Farm Bureau to help facilitate the tours. “They are the experts in the field of agriculture and they have great relationships and friendships within our community,” she said.
The tour began with the Beretta Dairy and dairy farmer Doug Beretta, who also serves on the Sonoma County Farm Bureau board of directors. Doug shared basic practices, how he manages his family’s fourth generation certified organic dairy operation and how he overcomes the everyday challenges of being a farmer. “It was interesting to find out how we get our milk and to learn how the drought is affecting dairy farms,” said Vanessa Mondragon of Santa Rosa High School.
Additional attention was given to the importance of our natural resources at the Laguna Wastewater Treatment Plant. Students were impressed by how the water is handled with ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and prepare it for reuse. “I was amazed by the huge scale in which everything was done, treating 22 million gallons a day of water; it was just massive production,” said Stewart Bobo of Montgomery High School.
The rest of the afternoon led the students to Gourmet Mushrooms, Dutton Ranch and Imwalle Gardens. They learned about modernized mushroom cultivation, growing organic apples, sustainably farmed vineyards, and the wholesale/retail produce business. Throughout the tour students were exposed to the realities of farming and resource conservation, and the part they play in it as consumers and future leaders.
“When I hear agriculture I think of wine grapes; I didn’t know that California was one of the main agriculture producers in the United States. We are really lucky to live in a state and county where we have access to all these local farmers,” Vanessa said about what agriculture means to her. When asked what about her experience on the tour she shared, “I enjoyed learning about how every single thing in agriculture affects each other. We’ve got the animals, the water system, plants and fungi; it’s interesting how it’s all connected.”
Stewart appreciated hearing from the industry leaders throughout the day. “I enjoyed the people the most, and hanging out with individuals who are very educated and super thoughtful. You get a lot of different views on everything,” he said.
One day with several of Sonoma County’s agricultural leaders has made a lasting impact on future community leaders. Years of industry knowledge, values and life experiences were shared with the students. Stay tuned to see what they will accomplish knowing the significance agriculture plays in their everyday lives.