It is great to be part of the Farm Bureau!

Written By: Robin Bartholow, Sonoma County Farm Bureau Deputy Executive Director
Published: May 16, 2022

I fell in love with the idea of farming when I was a young girl. I poured through the Little House on the Prairie series with great speed…  I could not get enough of Laura Ingalls’ world where a living is made from the land, and hard work and hard times go hand in hand with strong family connection and reverence for nature and powers out of our control.

My admiration for farming grew when I experienced it firsthand.  My family lived on an apple orchard on Cherry Ridge Road in Sebastopol for two years while I was in middle school. The slower, rhythmic passing of time was noticeable, and wonderful. Spending time watching blossoms turn into fruit and waiting for fruit to mature so I could pick and eat the ripe golden delicious apples off the tree had a natural cadence that required patience but was rewarding.  I spent a weekend picking prune plums one summer too – I am not sure I have ever worked so hard in my life.  Fast forward, and shortly after my last child was born, I was drawn to agriculture again, taking as many viticulture classes as they offered with Rich Thomas (aka “Dr. Vine”) at Santa Rosa Junior College.  I spent a while dreaming of becoming a vineyard manager, but that was difficult to do with three tiny children.

Fast forward again with my children grown and gone and a law degree under my belt – I was looking for my next chapter. When I was offered the Deputy Executive Director position, I jumped at the chance to work for Farm Bureau. Advocating for this industry is an incredible opportunity to do important and impactful work in an industry I have admired for a long time.

After a month as the Deputy Executive Director, I would like to share my first impressions of the excellent Farm Bureau as the most recently hired member of the team.

From the outside, before I was hired, I was well acquainted with Farm Bureau’s reputation for effective advocacy on behalf of the agricultural sector of the business community.  Like many in Sonoma County, I had been to the Farm Bureau Crab feed a few times. Over the years I spent working in the local construction community I saw that construction and agriculture tended to find themselves on the same side of an issue more often than not. I also knew that when the local business community partnered with Farm Bureau it meant we had more clout when advocating on issues where that partnership made sense.

Stepping inside Farm Bureau, I have seen the work up-close, and I am so impressed by the organization.  As I mentioned, this is not my first rodeo working for an industry association. I enjoyed my work advocating for the construction industry over the past 13-plus years at the North Coast Builders Exchange (NCBE).  While at NCBE I launched and managed programs that promoted a strong and steady construction workforce (including the North Bay Construction Corps), staffed and organized many events including a much smaller crab feed, managed our scholarship program, and helped staff our advocacy and political action efforts for local elected office holders and legislation. It is hard not to make comparisons between the two industries as I move over to agriculture, and in doing so, I have found that while both ag and construction businesses face an incredible amount of regulatory pressure, the issues facing farmers and ranchers are remarkably vast in scope and number.

I look forward to being part of the team here at Farm Bureau under Tawny’s excellent leadership and guidance, and to help navigate some of the many issues the membership faces as they run their business and care for their land.  I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can, and I look forward to the many events that Farm Bureau hosts for the farming and ranching community.  I look forward to being part of the dedicated staff here that works hard and smart on behalf of the industry they love.

In a few short weeks I have helped write letters in support of projects or grants where Farm Bureau is partnering with other organizations to advocate for important issues such as water treatment and climate smart commodities. I have learned about the role Farm Bureau plays in compliance with Vineyard Permitting and Frost Protection. I have enjoyed starting Board meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance (that does not happen very often anymore). I have observed the commitment and dedication by Farm Bureau leaders who volunteer a lot of their time to make the Farm Bureau and the industry the best and most successful it can be.

Also impressive are the many opportunities to learn here at Farm Bureau, not the least of which is the upcoming Water Summit on May 10th and 11th.  This is going to be an impactful event for our region as it will bring together stakeholders from all corners of the region to work together on solutions to the water scarcity problems we face. The speakers featured are top notch – I cannot remember the last time a California State Department Secretary spoke in Sonoma County and there will be two at the Water Summit.  The topics are informative and relevant to not only to our industry but to the community of other water users as well. I hope to see you there, and to meet you in person.

 

 

 

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To represent, protect and advance the social, economic and educational interests of the farmers and ranchers of Sonoma County.