My granddaughter is four years old this month. She is the first grandchild in our family and has been a true source of joy to watch as she grows and learns. It is simply amazing to see what she has mastered at such a young age compared to what I likely had accomplished at her age. I am even beginning to receive an occasional Facetime call when she gains control of her parents’ iPad. (Nana has been receiving calls for quite a while.) She mastered her favorite apps several months ago. Yes, I am a proud Granddad.
She is also the first generation in our family that may miss having a direct connection to agriculture and thus depend upon others for information about how and from where her food comes. It is this realization that solidifies for me the importance of educating and informing not only the small children in each generation about the realities of the many ways of providing food and fiber, but reminding their teachers and parents of the many ways that agriculture contributes to the well-being of our communities.
We get to see just how much value agriculture provides by way of annual reports, detailing the production and harvest of crops that provide jobs and resulting income, not including the government taxes and fees collected each year from these activities.
The Farm Bureau office recently received a donation of a display summarizing county production figures from decades ago that was assembled by county residents Alfred and Anne Nye, who were in their mid-50s around 1940. It is a great accounting of what was produced then – vegetable seeds, commercial vegetables, sheep, beef cattle, hogs, rabbits, ducks, bees and honey, walnuts, apples, cherries, other berries, poultry and eggs, turkeys, dairy products, prunes, pears, grapes, hops and lumber with a total value of $3,609,129,576. The amazing part of this is that lumber totally dominated this value at $3,521,000,000 leaving the agriculture production value at $88,129,576 with poultry and eggs having the largest percentage value.
In comparison, 2015 Sonoma County agriculture production was led by fruit and nut crops, followed by livestock and poultry products, livestock and poultry, nursery products, then vegetables and field crops equally for a total gross production value of $756,508,500. This figure was even down 14% from the prior year largely due to effects of the drought.
It is difficult to overlook the value and contributions from agriculture to Sonoma County. The information I have shared is just the value of the production. I have heard that a multiplier factor of three can be used to add the value of related jobs to process and deliver this production to consumers. I invite you to read the findings of a recent grower survey on page 8 highlighting additional contributions from just the winegrape grower community.
Farming and ranching families will continue to face each year armed with new tools, technologies and methods to do the work of growing food while sustaining the land, but also with knowledge and faith that what is needed will be provided. Agriculture has long been a major contributor to Sonoma County and its growth for generations and with the continuing stewardship of a diverse group of farmers will remain a leading segment of the county.
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