It is almost surreal that I am writing the editorial for the Sonoma County Farm Bureau as your Executive Director, what an honor! I have worked with the Sonoma County Farm Bureau and its executive directors over the years and have held each of them and the organization in high regard. To introduce myself to you is my privilege.
I grew up in Petaluma, in Marin County, only a mile from the Sonoma County line. I attended Tomales High School and was very active in Tomales FFA as an officer, on the Parliamentary Procedure team, showed market lambs and, of course, showed my registered and grade dairy cattle. I attended California State University, Chico during the school year, but each summer I found myself in the livestock area at both Sonoma Marin Fair and Sonoma County Fair managing the milk barns and/or clerking shows and being part of the livestock crew (thanks Jim Neumiller and Sheila Quince!) I obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with a pattern in Animal Industries, which allowed dual focus on animal science and agricultural business. At the time, I couldn’t get done with school fast enough so I could move back home and start working (because adulting is fun?) in some agricultural capacity. Fortunately, I was hired by the University of California Cooperative Extension as the Dairy Program Representative for Sonoma and Marin Counties. In this role, I quickly became engrained in local agriculture. I worked closely with the Agricultural Commissioner’s offices, both Regional Water Quality Control Boards, elected officials, local RCD’s and NRCS, and, yes, Farm Bureau. This was a time when non-point source pollution was emerging at warp speed, so ranch plans and relationships were at the forefront of my to-do list. This learning curve was actually the foundation for where I am today.
I left UCCE to raise my young family but stayed involved by assisting dairy farmers with their NPDES permits and organic transitions, as well as compliance for my family’s dairy and bookkeeping for a pump and well company. Once both of my kids were in elementary school, I was ready to get back to the workforce and it seemed Clover Sonoma (Clover Stornetta Farms at the time) was a great fit, and it was for nearly 12 years. It seemed water quality and manure management practices were still priorities on the docket for dairy, so I was able to pick up where I left off at UCCE but added many other areas of focus such as animal welfare, milk quality, milk balancing and whatever came to call. Knowledge of environmental issues, the milk market and relationships were at the forefront of my to-do list.
With trepidation and excitement, I left Clover in February 2020 to join the California Milk Advisory Board as the Director of Producer Relations. This was an entirely new adventure that would find me traveling across the State to connect with California dairy farmers. I had some reservations about being away from my beloved Sonoma County, but I jumped in with an open mind and then BOOM… COVID! So, I spent the first year navigating this new role from my home, doing what I could to keep dairy farmers across the state informed about all things dairy, maintaining and building relationships, and collaborating with industry allies to stay abreast of the various issues.
Today, relationships and collaborations are, yet again, on the forefront of my to-do list. While my experience harkens from the dairy industry, the issues that face every agriculture industry are similar. Land use, water quality, water use, environmental and regulatory issues, to name a few, affect all aspects of farming. I am thankful for the foundation that I garnered through the dairy industry but am looking forward to expanding my efforts to all facets of Sonoma County agriculture and welcome the challenges that will go along with them.
As the population continues to grow and our neighbors continue to change, we as an agriculture community must work together and remain steadfast in our efforts to educate, advocate, and teach where food and fiber comes from. Collaboration among all farming industries has never been more critical. While we may manage our farms differently, our goals are the same so we must embrace our diversity, lift each other up and work together to maintain the core, and, quite frankly, the beauty of what makes Sonoma County so special…. agriculture, viticulture, horticulture, farming- YOU!