Looking Back and Moving Forward: Two Years in Review

Written By: Steve Dutton, President
Published: December 3, 2018

Preparing my speech for the Harvest Celebration Dinner & Annual Meeting, I reflected on just how much time I have spent over the past two years of my Presidency focused on the future of Sonoma County Agriculture and Sonoma County Farm Bureau. It is hard to believe my two-year term is nearly up. I have enjoyed working hard for an organization whose mission I care for so deeply, whose members are so worthy, and whose role in the community is growing stronger day by day.

For me, to have a strong local ag community, we need to always acknowledge the gift of our history and legacy, and use it as an inspiration to innovate, collaborate and continue to push for preservation, and on most days, just plain survival. In Sonoma County, we are blessed with a heritage of farmers who have been stewards of this land for over two centuries. It was my honor to work hard to protect and honor that legacy.

But today, it is harder. Regulations and policies come faster and are more complex. Neighbors move in who love the view and hate the noise and smells. A generation of kids in many parts of the country have never visited a farm, some I am afraid even live here in Sonoma County. In 2018, we need Sonoma County Farm Bureau and its leaders now more than ever.

Over the past two years, I have led the organization’s focus and efforts in four key areas:
• Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s new home
• Organizational leadership and staffing
• Collaboration and partnerships with other ag organizations
• Taking a stand on issues that impact farmers

When I took over from John Azevedo, we were well-positioned to make our move to our new office space. It was an important move at just the right time to provide agriculture a home in Sonoma County and place where other community organizations could gather and meet. If you want to be the hub for agriculture, then you need to have a place to meet. Our new space is great and getting even better with the just completed new roof. We have plans for more improvements to come.

As it is with any good home, the folks who occupy it are what matters. Over the past two years, we made some very tough personnel decisions and boldly recruited and hired the best team of individuals I can imagine leading our organization. Executive Director Tawny Tesconi and her team have already increased Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s relevancy in the community and they are just getting started.

With a good home and good team, you need good partners. Whether it was increasing the partnership with the Sonoma County Winegrowers and working with them to raise over $1 million after the fires for our ag families or working with SAVE, the RCDs, the Ag Commissioner and other agencies on policy and regulations, or increasing visibility with the elected officials, now more than ever, our local ag community is working together to preserve our ag lands and helps us all stay in business.

When you have a good home, team and partners you can focus on having a strong voice. That is what we did these past two years. I am proud that Sonoma County Farm Bureau is becoming the go-to place for elected officials to get support for policies and regulations and proud that when we say NO our voice is heard. It is this strength that helps us partner with the business community and others to make our positions even stronger.

Our combined efforts and successes over the past two years have ultimately made us more equip to serve our over 2,000 diverse members. I have enjoyed meeting and engaging with members at our many events, hearing their concerns, and working hard to tackle issues with them. I am confident that our members will only continue to benefit from their MEMBERSHIP in the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.

As I reflect, I realized that while I had the opportunity to be President of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau for the past two years, it is the amazing Sonoma County Farm Bureau board of committed leaders that worked tirelessly every day to keep us moving forward. I appreciate the many opportunities I had to collaborate, call on, and count on my fellow directors and would like to thank them for their dedicated service.

Although the business may continue to challenge us, we have never been better poised to survive and thrive. I look forward to the strategic planning process that is just beginning and the continued elevation of agriculture’s voice in Sonoma County.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity the past two years. It has been an incredible experience and I look forward to what’s next.

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