The Sonoma County Farm Bureau is pleased to be honoring this year’s award winners at Love of the Land on August 19, 2021. Although these award recipients were chosen a year ago as the 2020 award winners, the Farm Bureau felt these people and their families were too important to the success of Sonoma County agriculture and the Farm Bureau miss a celebration in their honor.
Farm Bureau Hall of Fame: Domenic Carinalli
For more than 50 years Domenic Carinalli has been a recognized leader on the farm front, spending countless hours away from his Sebastopol ranch to fight for the interests of all farmers in Sonoma County and beyond.
Carinalli, who is 80 and still going strong, emerged as the voice of reason on topics ranging from land use to milk marketing and wine grape promotion to animal welfare. And he did it all while running the family dairy and vineyard with his wife Lynda, a working partner in their farm business. In many ways, Domenic and Lynda Carinalli are the profile of today’s American farm family, hardworking stewards of the land who are pillars of the farming community and ambassadors for agriculture.
Carinalli was involved in building Farm Bureau’s former office on Piner Road more than 50 years ago and for many of the younger directors on the Farm Bureau board, Domenic Carinalli is the organization’s institutional memory and elder adviser, putting the issues of the day into perspective based on the historical past.
Meeting the challenges that farmers face is what drives Carinalli to devote so much of his time to Sonoma County Farm Bureau and Western United Dairymen – organizations that collectively represent the interests of agricultural producers. He said farmers can’t tackle the issues alone and must work collectively through strong and credible organizations to protect their interests whether it’s burdensome regulations, land use, transportation, markets, or the many other issues that threaten farmers’ survival.
Carinalli has been a director of Sonoma County Farm Bureau since 1968 and is the longest-serving director in the history of the organization, which was founded in 1917. He served as Farm Bureau president in 1987-88. Additionally, he has served twice as the representative for Sonoma, Marin, and Napa counties on the board of directors of the California Farm Bureau Federation in Sacramento. During both stints on the CFBF board, he was involved in decisions about building new headquarters for the state organization.
The Hall of Fame award recognizes Carinalli’s deep and enduring commitment to agriculture and his dedication to a way of life that he believes is worth preserving for generations to come in Sonoma County.
Carinalli has no thoughts of retiring from farming or his active participation in the agricultural organizations that he believes are vital to protecting the interests of farmers and ranchers. He said with so few people actively involved in farming these days, there is little understanding of agriculture production. He hopes that county residents appreciate and value the vast stretches of farm and grazing land that make Sonoma County such a special place to live.
“Increasingly, people today don’t have a clue about what it takes to produce what they are eating and the challenges that farmers face to keep producing it,” said Carinalli.
He said his work in farming and advocacy is not done.
“We are going to keep it all going,” Carinalli said his no-nonsense way.
Luther Burbank Conservation Award: The Sangiacomo Family
For nearly a century, the Sangiacomo family has farmed in the Sonoma Valley, not only passing down farming skills from generation to generation but their Italian ancestors’ Old-World reverence for the land and the miraculous bounty that comes from it.
The Old-World belief that if you take care of the land, it takes care of you is deeply embedded in the DNA of the third generation Sangiacomos now managing the family farming operation established by their grandparents Vittorio and Maria Sangiacomo, immigrants from Genoa, Italy. For the Sangiacomo’s this means developing their own Vine Ecology program, being mindful of water conservation, and sustainable farming that reduces the impact on soil.
The family holdings, which started with 56 acres of pear, apple, and prune trees in 1927, today unfolds over 1,600 acres of sustainably farmed premium wine grapes spreading from Carneros to the Sonoma Coast.
While the crops they grow have changed with the evolving times in farming, the Sangiacomo family’s respect for the land remains at the core of their farming endeavors. It’s a remarkable legacy of dedication to the land, family values, and the community they proudly call home.
Like their immigrant ancestors, the Sangiacomos are deeply rooted in their land and dedicated to family unity as the generations work side-by-side. And despite the perceived glitz of the wine industry, the Sangiacomos remain as humble and unpretentious as the family members who were fruit farmers 90 years ago.
“The land is in our DNA,” said Steve Sangiacomo, one of the members of the third generation. “As a multi-generational farming family, we grew up working in the fields with our father and uncles. We learned from them, and they learned from the previous generation, passing down better ways to do things.”
The family’s mission is to sustainably farm with Mother Nature to grow world-class winegrapes and craft wines of intensity and balance from the very best vineyard sites. That mission is the guiding force in vineyard development and land acquisition as well as the focus on environmentally conscientious farming practices.
“We are extremely honored to receive this award especially since it is from our peers,” patriarch Angelo Sangiacomo said in accepting the award. “Sonoma County has been good to our family, and we feel very fortunate to have farmed through three generations. Grape growing is a great balance of maintaining cutting-edge farming practices and being exemplary stewards of the land. Our family continues to focus on both and treat them equally.”
It’s this culture of care and land stewardship that has earned the Sangiacomo family the 2021 Luther Burbank Conservation Award from the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.
Farm Family of the Year: The Neve Family
For more than a half-century, the Neve family of Petaluma has strategically adapted to not only survive in the highly competitive flower business but to thrive and prosper, becoming the West Coast’s premier producer of show-stopping roses and other floral delights.
Lou Neve, who runs Neve Bros. with his wife Raelene, and his sons, Nick and Chris, fourth-generation flower growers, said it takes targeted vigilance to stay in tune with shifting markets and changing tastes in flowers. Nick and Chris, who hold positions in production and sales, are committed to a flower-growing business that has become their family legacy.
The Neves’ business acumen, dedication to farming, and prominent place in the agriculture community have earned them the Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s Farm Family of the Year Award for 2021. Farm Bureau leaders say the Neves are exemplary entrepreneurs focused on economic viability and environmental stewardship while being involved in building community and preserving the county’s rich agricultural heritage.
Today, the Neve family’s mantra remains, “Quality, quality, quality” in production, sales, and service. It’s paid off.
“We are in a good spot, but we worked hard for it,” said Neve. “When it comes to producing top quality products like our roses and other flowers, there is always room at the top. I strive for that every day.”
And the Neves are confident their reputation for quality and service will serve them well.
The brothers grew up in the business and, early on, became attuned with seasonal production rhythms, like the crushing demand for their flowers on holidays like Mother’s Day, Easter, and Valentine’s Day.
Nick Neve said his career path was clear from the time he was a kid. When he was in second grade, he was asked the usual question about what he wanted to be when he grew up. That was easy, he said, he wanted to be a flower grower like his father, grandfather, and great grandfather.
The Neves said it’s a tremendous honor to be an integral part of the Sonoma County agriculture community and to be celebrated by Farm Bureau for their role in sustaining the county’s farm economy and enhancing a way of life they value.
“It means so much to be recognized as one of the top farm families and join so many other wonderful farming families who take so much pride in doing the right thing to produce the best food and wines anywhere,” said Lou Neve. “Sonoma County is a very special place where everyone in agriculture feels the need to do their best because of the county’s reputation for quality.”
Neve said the award also pays tribute to his parents and grandparents’ hard work and their sacrifices to establish the family business that he and his sons now own and operate. It’s a legacy the family celebrates.
“These days you don’t see many family flower businesses making it to the next generation and we are in the fourth generation,” said Neve, who is proud that his sons are so passionate about producing quality flowers and continuing the family business.
Friend of Farm Bureau: The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office
The Sonoma County Farm Bureau is pleased to award the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office with the Friend of Farm Bureau Award. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, led by Sheriff Mark Essick, is generous with their time and talent when it comes to supporting the Farm Bureau. The Sheriff’s Office offers many agriculture-specific resources to the Farm Bureau through their rural crimes task force, contributions to the Sonoma-Marin Farm News, and partnerships with various Farm Bureau training programs.
Lieutenant Greg Piccinini and his rural crimes task force staff are regular contributors to the Sonoma-Marin Farm News, where they submit content regarding current agricultural crime trends and new crime prevention tactics.
The Sheriff’s Office has had a Rural Crimes task force for decades, but under Essick’s leadership efforts were redoubled to renew their commitment to Sonoma County farmers and ranchers. Led by a lieutenant and supervised by a sergeant, the rural crimes task force is staffed with 8 deputy sheriffs that work throughout unincorporated Sonoma County. The task force works closely with farmers and ranchers to work on cutting-edge crime prevention tactics as well as respond to the unique needs of the ag community. The Sheriff’s Office regularly works to develop partnerships with the ag community to best protect farmers and ranchers from trespassing, vandalism, and theft. Lieutenant Piccinini said, “I am very proud of the dedication our Rural Crimes Task Force shows to the farming and ranching families of Sonoma County. It is our first priority to create genuine relationships with the Sonoma County ag community because that is what ensures we can respond to their needs quickly and effectively.”
Essick noted that a majority of the people living in Sonoma County have their lives touched by local agriculture in some way. As a rural Sheriff’s Office tasked with serving large unincorporated areas of land, farmers and their families are one of the larger groups of people the office serves. Essick said, “We are very fortunate to have forged a great relationship with Farm Bureau leadership. We have found that our lasting relationship with the Farm Bureau allows us to best serve and protect farming families and find success serving the whole Sonoma County community.”
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office never hesitates to offer a helping hand during fire season by providing fire prevention workshops and training in partnership with the Farm Bureau. The Sheriff’s Office is an advocate for Sonoma County farmers and ranchers who require access to their property in times of fire emergencies through the ag pass program.
Sheriff’s deputies who are a part of the Rural Crimes task force are always present at the Farm Bureau’s Beyond the Fenceline meetings. These meetings are offered to members on how o best prepare for activist activity on their property. These workshops are a huge resource to farmers and ranchers that worry about the safety and protection of their families, animals, and equipment.
President Jennifer Beretta said, “The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office continues to show up for Sonoma County agriculture time and again. I truly value the relationship we have built with the leadership at the Sheriff’s Office and their responsive rural crimes task force which is staffed with deputies that understand ag and the value of protection of livestock, crops, property, and farming families. Their commitment to our mission and our community is unwavering.”
It is the unwavering support of the Sheriff’s Office and the Rural Crimes Task Force and their efforts to create genuine, long-lasting relationships with the Farm Bureau and its members that have earned them the Friend of Farm Bureau award.