By Dayna Ghirardelli, Executive Director
This year’s annual meeting on November 16th was a casual affair. With Doug Beretta, Pat Burns, Nicolas Hernandez, and John Bidia preparing to fulfill the second of a two-year term in their respective positions, we did not need to hold an election. Our program consisted of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau staff presenting an overview of our 2023 efforts and activities. The Sonoma-Marin Farm News and our membership-only emails should keep you well-informed of our endeavors as we embark upon them, but the annual meeting is a time to realize the culmination of all that we’ve accomplished. It is also a time for members to engage by asking questions and/or providing feedback and suggestions. Of course, we encourage you to engage with us throughout the year, but the annual meeting is a perfect venue for camaraderie and collective discussion. We intend to coordinate a full dinner event for the 2024 annual meeting as new officers will be elected.
Hopefully, along with welcoming a new slate of Sonoma County Farm Bureau officers at the 2024 annual meeting, we’ll also be able to celebrate a few wins as the election cycle concludes. As you know, there is a petition circulating as we speak to try and get a measure on the Sonoma County ballot that aims to eliminate Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). This potential initiative seeks to amend and add a Sonoma County Ordinance focused solely on unincorporated Sonoma County that will restrict the size of animal operations. This initiative goes so far as to designate the Ag Commissioner as the regulator, and the County is tasked with retraining employees who may be displaced from affected operations. (No mention of where said employees will live in that many of these operations provide housing.) You may have seen petitioners outside grocery stores pushing to “End Factory Farming,” yet when approached they have no intelligible information on what the petition is actually depicting. Instead, they simply offer a QR code to access their website which contains footage of various animal operations in the county obtained either through trespassing and/or drone videos. There is no explanation of what is being shown, just slow, somber music being played to tug on one’s heartstrings. There is nothing incriminating about the footage, but to the “untrained eye” along with the “sad music” one could find fault in all of it. Their ultimate goal is to end all of animal agriculture and they’re starting with Sonoma County. Well, we’ve got the fight in us and we are not backing down, especially to a bunch of out-of-towners!
As we prepare for the fight, there are some things that you and others can do at this point. If you see them, approach the petitioners to ask questions and challenge them, which results in deterrence from them approaching others. Even more effective is telling your friends, neighbors, co-workers, doctors, dentists, hairdressers, and others you engage with NOT to sign the petition. If someone says they signed it not understanding what it was, encourage them to go to this link https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/administrative-support-and-fiscal-services/clerk-recorder-assessor-registrar-of-voters/registrar-of-voters/forms scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Request to Remove Name/Signature From Petition.” We have had some decent preliminary coverage of this in Petaluma’s Argus-Courier, which was also picked up by the Press Democrat. We’ve also been contacted by a few national news organizations as word is getting out and I am taking every opportunity to be heard.
This entire topic evokes tremendous frustration and the pleading desire to “do something!” There is a lot of work and strategizing going on that on the outside feels as though we are doing nothing. I assure you the time will come when we need all hands on deck. This effort is going to take a lot of time and even more money, but we must be smart and not let our emotions get ahead of us. Timing is everything!