Agricultural Legacy: Past and Future

Written By: Steve Dutton, President
Published: February 6, 2018

Every February the ag and local community come together to celebrate the legacy of Sonoma County agriculture, mix and mingle with old and new friends, raise money to support the next generation of farmers and, of course, eat delicious crab and drink the best wine in the world made right here in our own backyard. The 29th annual Great Sonoma Crab and Wine Fest did not disappoint and the Sonoma County Farm Bureau staff has once again outdone themselves. I want to personally thank them for their hard work and congratulate them on this success. What an accomplishment and celebration – we are Sonoma County Ag Strong.

On Thursday, February 1st, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) held a board meeting and lunch hosted by CDFA Board member, Joy Sterling, at Iron Horse Vineyards. The day started with a tour of the fire impacted areas of Sonoma County and then convened at Iron Horse for lunch and formal presentations about the fires effect on Sonoma County agriculture and local response. Presenters included: Tony Linegar, Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner; Karissa Kruse, President, Sonoma County Winegrowers; Honore Comfort, Wine Business Executive in Residence, Sonoma State University; and Gladys Horiuchi, Director of Media Relations, Wine Institute.

Presentations focused on fire impacts on agricultural, wine and tourism, messaging and branding post fires and best practices in communication and assessment. The key takeaway was how farmers, first responders, elected officials and our Ag Commissioner’s office worked together through 280 special permits to provide access into evacuation areas for grape harvesting, protection of animals and to water nursery stock. The CDFA Board was appreciative and impressed with the collaboration and efforts of the entire community in Sonoma County and has asked us to share learnings and these best practices for emergency response that can be used throughout the state in the case of future disasters.

The CDFA Board of Directors made a trip to Sonoma County because of the importance of agriculture to our local economy and community. Our ag industry continues to be relevant today because of the leadership of many farming pioneers who protected and promoted our ag lands for generations.

In January, we lost one of these pioneers and Ag Leaders, Richard Kunde, who passed away after fighting kidney failure for many years. In 1982, Rich started what would become the largest grapevine nursery in California, Sonoma Grapevines. But he is even better known for his amazing partnership with his late wife, Saralee McClelland Kunde, and their dedication to 4-H, inspiring the next generation of young farmers and donating the use of Richard’s Grove and Saralee’s Vineyard to a multitude of local non-profits.

They were champions for the community and their home was a backdrop for local giving. They were the original promoters of Sonoma County Agriculture and would be proud today of Sonoma County Ag Strong. For me, Saralee and Richard were friends and mentors, and I truly believe no two individuals have done more for our ag community.

With the loss of Rich Kunde and many of our other pioneers, it has never been more important for my generation and young farmers to get involved in leadership roles to protect and promote Sonoma County and its world class ag products. Leadership can begin with a simple step of joining the Sonoma County Farm Bureau and evolving your role from attending to engaging to leading. We need an active next generation to support agriculture and to continue our mission of having one strong voice for agriculture in Sonoma County.

Together, if we can accomplish these goals, we will be fulfilling Richard and Saralee’s legacy.

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the author and Sonoma County Farm Bureau when reprinting this item.

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