By Dayna Ghirardelli, Executive Director
The first sentence of our mission statement is “to represent, protect, and advance the social, economic, and educational interests of the farmers and ranchers of Sonoma County.” This is not only an organizational mission but also a passion. Protecting agriculture means advocating for all that farming and ranching have to offer including families, heritage, open spaces, land that is cared for, local food and beverages, beauty, bounty, and the importance of agriculture on the ecosystem of Sonoma County.
At the heart of the Farm Bureau are you, the members! Membership is an integral part of our success and of course our purpose. However, the trend across the state is that membership has declined. This is a direct reflection of farms, ranches, and dairies going out of business and either being taken over by folks who are already members or, more frequently, the land being transitioned out of agriculture altogether. A source of membership that needs to be enhanced is folks on ranchettes or smaller rural parcels, especially new owners, where our efforts promote their property uses and protections. Our work on various county ordinances has a direct benefit on these properties so their membership is relevant.
We are grateful for the numerous ancillary and industry-supporting businesses that recognize the value of our mission by being a Sustaining Partner, Premium Member, Supporting Partner, and/or Business Affiliate. This level of membership and funding is essential for our efforts and is an effective way for businesses that engage with agricultural operations to support their customers. This degree of commitment elevates our community collaborations and promotes the strength of Sonoma County agriculture which must continuously battle for its right and importance to exist, operate, and thrive despite its obvious contribution to the county.
Membership is important and it is the cornerstone of this grassroots organization. However, membership dues alone cannot sustain the operations of our county organization at the level that is required to be effective; therefore, fundraising is critical.
The 34th Annual Great Sonoma Crab & Wine Fest is set for February 3, 2024, and is our biggest fundraiser of the year! We host 1,500 community members for a night of local wine, food, raffles, silent auction, live auction, friendship, networking, and everyone’s seasonal favorite, crab! The success of this event really sets the tone for us each year. So much planning, organizing, and time goes into this event, but the unsung heroes are the hundreds of volunteers, including local 4-H and FFA members, who help us set up before everyone arrives, serve the guests at their tables during dinner, and clean up when the fun is all over. There is no way we could pull this off without their dedicated service. In addition, sponsorships and donations are critical to the success of this event! We have an array of sponsorship offerings that elevate the evening’s experience, as well as offer promotional opportunities that night and beyond. Contact me for more sponsorship information.
Memberships, sponsorships, and fundraising are the trifecta for our daily operation, but sometimes we come across the need for strategized campaigns to stop unreasonable demands that require additional funding. In 2005, the Sonoma County Farm Bureau waged an expensive campaign to combat the measure that would ban GMOs in the county. Over $400,000 was spent back then, and that was in addition to the pro-bono work provided by local experts. A campaign of the same magnitude would cost well over $650,000 today. At the rate things are going with extremists and extortionists who make it their mission to put farmers and ranchers out of business, these events are inevitably in our future.
Over the years, many relationships have been garnered among agriculture and non-agricultural sectors on account of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s existence and efforts. While sometimes we may have found ourselves in the middle of controversy, it wasn’t out of failing to “represent, protect, and advance the social, economic, and educational interests of the farmers and ranchers of Sonoma County.” As our world continues to change around us, the need for advocacy, protection, and education of agriculture becomes even more eminent. One doesn’t need to be a “farmer” to be a member of the Farm Bureau or to support our mission.