Love of the Land: More Than 1200 People Gather to Celebrate Sonoma County Agriculture

Written By: Rachel LaFranchi
Published: August 1, 2015

Celebrating stewards of the land, community members met at Richard’s Grove and Saralee’s Vineyard in Windsor to attend Farm Bureau’s Love of the Land on Thursday, July 16th.
Featuring local wine, cheese and food, the reception was filled with government officials and prominent community members who all share a passion for Sonoma County agriculture and the land on which it thrives.

New this year, with the help of a grant from the California Milk Advisory board, was a cheese tent showcasing local cheese from Sonoma and Marin counties. More than 12 local cheese producers provided bites of cheese for guests to sample.

“It’s a gorgeous event, and I couldn’t have asked for better,” said Micheal Zilber, marketing manager at Cowgirl Creamery, who served cheese at the event. “What I love is how I can talk about the dairies our milk comes from and people know them, most customers glaze over that. The people here are deeply committed to source products and it’s fantastic.”

Along with cheese, guests had the opportunity to try local wine and food during the reception. Food vendors ranged from iconic local restaurants including John Ash and the Union Hotel to desserts by Flour Creations and sandwiches from Ike’s Place.
For dinner, attendees made their way through a buffet of locally grown food. Showcased local foods included Parsons home grown tomatoes, Costeaux French Bakery rolls with McClelland Dairy butter, chicken from Petaluma Poultry, tri-tip from Santa Rosa Meat and Poultry and ice cream from Petaluma Creamery.

At twilight, the Petaluma Riding and Driving Club color guard rode in with flags as Diego Garcia sang God Bless the U.S.A. and the national anthem. The night’s award recipients included Paul Martin, the Farm Bureau Hall of Fame inductee; Harmony Farm Supply, who received the Luther Burbank Conservation Award; and the Sangiacomo Family who were honored as the Farm Family of the Year.

David Rabbitt, Second District Supervisor for Sonoma County, presented Paul Martin with his award. Rabbitt talked about Martin’s service to the ag industry by building bridges between dairy farmers and regulatory agencies after he served the country as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army during Vietnam.

Martin also spent two years as the Deputy Director in the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development and recently retired as the CEO of Western United Dairymen. He lives on his ranch in Two Rock with his wife, Jill, who accepted the award with him on Thursday night. His commitment to bettering the agricultural industry and educating those involved without a farming background is what earned him his prominent place in the Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s Hall of Fame.

The second award winner was Harmony Farm Supply of Sebastopol. Fifth District Supervisor Efren Carrillo presented the award to Rick Williams and Leah Taylor, owners of the store. Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery is an iconic Sebastopol establishment.
With goals to teach locals about organic and sustainable agriculture, Harmony Farm Supply has been encouraging and communicating earthly friendly practices long before they were public concerns. They have been offering farmers the inspiration, know-how and technical supplies to farm organically and sustainably, making them an ideal company to honor for the Luther Burbank Conservation award.

Sangiacomo Family Vineyards were presented the Farm Family of the Year by Susan Gorin, Sonoma County Supervisor for the First District. Currently two generations of Sangiacomos farm the vineyard and all are hopeful that one more of the third generation will take over the family grape growing business.

The Sangiacomos are passionate about family, agriculture and supporting their community. They go above and beyond the idea of a farm family and hope to grow grapes for years to come. Their passion has made them the ideal family to honor as the Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s 2015 Farm Family of the Year.

Following the presentation of the annual awards, Press Democrat columnist Gaye LeBaron surprised retiring Farm Bureau executive director Tim Tesconi with a speech and award. LeBaron talked about Tesconi’s 43 years of dedication to Sonoma County agriculture and his time as a writer for the Press Democrat.

The night ended with a live auction featuring fifteen items. The first item auctioned off were three hats that belonged to Sonoma County’s iconic Saralee McClelland Kunde, known for her derby-style hats and dedication to agriculture. All proceeds from the hats were donated to Saralee and Richard’s Barn, an agriculture education center to be built at the Sonoma County Fair.

Also featured in the live auction were tickets to Super Bowl 50 which included access to the pre-game party. Guests also had the chance to purchase an abalone dive donated by the Young Farmers and Ranchers, 12 front row tickets to Montgomery Gentry and Thompson Square and many more once in a lifetime items.

Emcee Brent Farris ended the night by saying, “the food, ag and love of the land guests show at this event is one of the most beautiful things.”

While guests each had their favorite part of the event from local wine and cheese to watching friends receiving awards or the chance to purchase great items, everyone agreed the event was a fantastic success.

“This is my favorite event of the year!” said Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore. “There’s a buzz about this evening and if I could bottle it up and share it, people would see the real heart of Sonoma County agriculture.”

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