By David Rabbitt
Sonoma County Supervisor, 2nd District

“And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker” – so God made a farmer.”

So starts the iconic speech delivered by radio broadcaster Paul Harvey in 1978 in front of the Future Farmers of America convention in Kansas City, Missouri.  Here in Sonoma County, we are fortunate to have so many remarkable caretakers of – our uniquely beautiful – farmlands in our midst.

Indeed, the positive impact of agriculture in Sonoma County cannot be overstated.  It has shaped our economy.  It has shaped our development and is a big part of drawing nearly ten million visitors annually to our county.  Sonoma County’s working lands help feed, fuel, and clothe a growing world all the while, farmers continue to ensure the lands and waters on which their own livelihoods depend, benefit all of us.

While I was born in The City, my mother was born on a farm – just down the bóthar from the village of Coolough which sits outside of Galway, Ireland.  The farming was rough as the land seemed comprised of more rock than soil.  It is that connection through that thatched cottage and my family’s agrarian background that shapes my own views on the importance of working lands and the respect for those who toil upon them.

Farmers put their faith in the land, their animals, and in mother nature and if the stars align, they squeeze out a living.  From experience, that faith doesn’t extend to government so much.  It seems as if an avalanche of ever-changing regulations makes ends ever harder to meet as, many times, well intended policies, erode financial sustainability.

Unfortunately, many of these policies are crafted and handed down by folks who may have never stepped foot on a farm or ranch or run their own business.  At best, they truly do not know the consequences of their decisions.  Politicians who declare their support for ag one day and enact onerous and costly regulations the next, without considering the totality of the impacts, often are doing more harm than good.

This “death by a thousand cuts” needs to be viewed through the cumulative burden it places on arguably, the county’s most vital sector.  We need to step back and take it in the big picture.  We need to solve real problems, not come up with solutions for problems that don’t exist.  It’s only by working together that we can advance and leave no one behind and continue to build upon our legacy in Sonoma County.  The legacy that shaped our economy and our development.  The legacy that helps feed and fuel the world and the legacy that is responsible for the economic engine that drives generation after generation of Sonoma County residents.

Thank you for having my back and know, I have yours.  Whether it’s ensuring the Local Coastal Plan update truly supports agriculture or the Well Ordinance update doesn’t preclude having a well, I will continue to listen and advocate for solutions which make sense.  We are stronger together and policies are better, if all are invited to the table.