On October 9th, Sonoma County woke up to a natural disaster no one expected. Over the next week, more than 100,000 acres burned in Sonoma County and neighboring counties were also battling wildfires. During this time, fires in the North Bay burned an area larger than New York City.
Despite the devastation our community experienced, more than 90% of Sonoma County was left unharmed, and in the weeks following the fire, our community has shown we are stronger than ever. We saw this repeatedly throughout the week our agricultural community was threatened.
On Thursday, October 12th, as the fire approached the Mickelson family’s cattle in Sonoma Valley, the family knew they needed to move their livestock. More than 180 head of weaned calves and heifers were in the fire’s path.
Jim Mickelson said getting help was fairly easy as his son called neighbors and friends to come in and load up the cattle. Everyone was willing to assist, and they had two semis and eight goosenecks show up to load all the cattle off the property and haul them to a ranch in Bodega.
The pastures later burned, some partially and some completely, but the Mickelsons said they were part of the lucky ones. They lost pasture land, fencing and some tin off their barns but their structures all remained intact.
The Mickelsons’ friends and neighbors showing up to help haul cattle is only one in an endless string of stories over the past month where the community has stepped up.
Karen Ross, Secretary of California Department of Food and Agriculture, only reiterated this when she visited Sonoma County on October 30th and spoke at Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s fire recovery town hall meeting.
“The one thing I’ve noticed from day one was the spirit of people in this community,” said Secretary Ross, “the willingness to do something for many they didn’t even know, to sacrifice something to help protect others, and that’s the spirit that we’re all going to have to hold onto and keep going with.”
Secretary Ross recalled Nick Frey always saying “welcome to paradise” when she arrived in Sonoma County. Sonoma County is still paradise, she told the agricultural community, and although it has some scars, everyone knows that Sonoma County is still a special place.
The town hall meeting offered resources for rural land owners with nearly 20 local, state and federal agencies offering support and information on recovery and rebuilding in rural areas.
As the focus in Sonoma County moves away from the devastation and towards recovery and looking ahead, it’s important to remember Secretary Ross’ words “Sonoma County is still paradise.”
Much of our agricultural community and the greater Sonoma County community relies on tourism. We are here, we are open for business. Support your local farmers. Encourage others to support our local farmers, wineries and businesses. Our community is strong. Our community is resilient. And with rolling acres of vineyards, hills with grazing livestock as far as the eye can see, and so much more diversified agriculture, our community is still standing strong.
Sonoma County Farm Bureau has orchestrated many programs over the last month to help our rural community as well as providing as much information as possible to our members. If there is anything you need, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office. Sonoma County Farm Bureau has been working for our agricultural community for 100 years, and we will continue to be here to support you in good times and bad.
You can watch Secretary Ross address the Sonoma County agricultural community here: youtube.com/watch?v=5QCkGBIF8YA