The beginning of summer traditionally signals the onset of many wonderful activities at your Farm Bureau office. Although delayed, we are back on track this year to come together to celebrate the many accomplishments of our agriculture stakeholders, including celebrating decades of success in farming like our Love of the Land honorees or relishing in the afterglow of high school graduation.
The summer starts with our successful golf tournament in late July. Usually a sold-out event, this tournament pits the dairyman against the banker and the viticulturalist against the insurance agent. Although all the players are there to have some fun and support their Farm Bureau, you cannot miss the aura of competition in the air. Some of the players hope to take home the honors of the longest drive, while others look for their team to take first place or be heralded as the best dressed. Thanks to the support of our many donors, on-course booth sponsors, and the stellar assistance we get from the team at the Windsor Golf Course, whether you are a player or guest, the day is fun-filled and memory-making.
Three weeks later, our much-coveted Love of the Land event will celebrate so many amazing people and organizations that make our industry the powerhouse that it is recognized to be. It is the Academy Awards ceremony of Sonoma County agriculture, but instead of a red carpet, we have green grass, and we trade designer gowns and tiaras for blue jeans and cowboy hats. In 2019, the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber merged their ag leadership recognition event with Love of the Land and will once again be part of the event. This year, we are excited to add a third partner, the Youth Ag & Leadership Foundation of Sonoma County. A few months ago, the Farm Bureau Board approved a request to have the Youth Ag & Leadership Foundation host the silent auction during Love of the Land since they are not yet ready to host their annual event this summer.
Many declare this summertime celebration to be their favorite of the year, and I believe this year’s event will feel even more spectacular as folks get a chance to mingle with their brethren. Most of the award-winning families and organizations have been farming for generations and have proven time and again their dedication and passion for agriculture. It is such an honor to bring our community together to honor these deserving awardees.
As mentioned, the season also celebrates our young adults who will be the future leaders of our industry. In this edition of the Sonoma-Marin Farm News, you will find a centerspread dedicated to our 2021 Farm Bureau Foundation scholarship award winners. 45 students received $164,000 in scholarships this year, and those monies came from all of you. Our members’ support for local high school and college students is unbelievable – just take a look at the list of donors and their generous contributions.
For the second year, I have had the opportunity to be one of the panelists for the scholarship candidate interviews. (There is also a separate panel that reviews the written scholarship applications). Daily, I see the challenges endured by our members to stay in business and to make a living, and my empathy for our local farmers and ranchers runs deep. It just so happened that the days leading up to the scholarship interviews were filled with bad news about the drought and likely curtailments that were being mandated on many of our stakeholders. I went into the first day of interviews feeling saddened for an industry that I love. However, after the first few discussions with the young applicants, I felt hope for the future of agriculture.
There were so many ways these students brightened my day, but I think what I held on to the most from those interviews was the passion for agriculture. I heard from several young adults who had no background in agriculture until they took their first ag class in high school. A few of the students confessed that they were forced into an ag class by a counselor to fulfill a science requirement, while other students shared they thought it would be easier than biology or other science classes. When these students shared their FFA experiences and explained how their ag teachers and fellow ag students changed their lives, it was stunning. Many of these applicants indicated they were the first in the family to be going on to Santa Rosa Junior College or a four-year college, and it would not be happening if they had not found a path.
Another exciting and uplifting takeaway from the scholarship interviews was a commonality between the interviewees when asked about the challenges facing agriculture. Most stated the drought, but almost all of the students discussed the need for positive information about farming to be shared to counter all the misinformation on social media platforms that paint agriculture negatively. For a few years now, Sonoma County Farm Bureau has been sharing the stories of our farmers and ranchers, but in the years to come, I have no doubt that many of these young people will be eloquent spokespeople for our industry.
With the uncertainties ahead of us this summer brought on by wildfire concerns and the fallout from water scarcity, I am certain that we are in good hands with the current leaders we will be honoring in August and our future leaders who we have helped reach their educational goals. We are lucky to have such passion and talent in Sonoma County.