Sonoma County’s Agricultural Heritage Celebrated at Farm Bureau’s “Love of the Land.”

Written By: Tim Tesconi
Published: August 1, 2012

Nearly 1,000 people attend outdoor celebration at Richard’s Grove and Saralee’s Vineyard


There were nearly 1,000 people celebrating the agricultural bounty of Sonoma County at Farm Bureau’s “Love of the Land” held at Richard’s Grove and Saralee’s Vineyard where the county’s beauty was on full display among ancient oaks and sweeping vineyard vistas.

Love of the Land, a benefit for farmland preservation and clean water, was held on July 19 to celebrate the best of Sonoma County including the hard-working farm families whose legacy of care and stewardship have made Sonoma County the special food and wine region it is today. Many of those enjoying the event’s near perfect weather, spectacular venue, food and wine couldn’t help thinking about their good fortune to live in Sonoma County.

“We have a lot to be proud of in Sonoma County where agriculture plays such an important role in driving our economy and defining our landscape and way-of-life. It’s all about taking care of the land so it is there for the generations that will follow,’ said livestock rancher Joe Pozzi, president of Sonoma County Farm Bureau.

The evening drew a mix of people, urban and rural, from throughout Sonoma County and beyond. Attorneys and bankers rubbed elbows with farmers and ranchers while sipping wines from 36 wineries and sampling food from more than a dozen food purveyors during the Sonoma Grown reception. Then guests feasted on a barbecued beef and chicken prepared by Farm Bureau directors and Preferred Sonoma Caterers. The dinner centered on locally grown food including tomatoes produced by Kelley Parsons of Santa Rosa, chicken from Petaluma Poultry Processors, beef from Golden Gate Meat Co. in Santa Rosa and greens from Andy’s Produce in Santa Rosa. Pies from Mom’s Apple Pie and Kozlowski Farms, both in Sebastopol, and peach ice cream from Larry Peter’s Petaluma Creamery topped off the meal.

It also was a night to toast the agricultural award winners honored by Sonoma County Farm Bureau. This year’s award recipients are Art Lafranchi of Santa Rosa, the Rex Williams Family of Sebastopol and Al Cadd of Geyserville – all dedicated to maintaining the rich farming heritage that remains the heart and soul of Sonoma County.

Art Lafranchi, a Santa Rosa rancher and attorney who has worked diligently to educate urban students about agriculture, was inducted into the Sonoma County Farm Bureau Hall of Fame for his lifetime achievement in agriculture and community service. The award recognizes the giants of Sonoma County agriculture – the men and women who have made outstanding contributions to Sonoma County agriculture and the community. Past recipients include such leaders as Rich Kunde, Angelo Sangiacomo and the late Jess Jackson and Larry Bertolini.

Lafranchi, 76, was unable to attend because of his poor health but through his son Ken Lafranchi he conveyed his appreciation for the Hall of Fame Award while expressing his lifelong love for agriculture.

“Though I have spent much of my career doing things other than agriculture, agriculture has always been my truest love. I feel so fortunate to have been born and raised on a dairy and to have had the opportunity to remain in an active status all my life working in the agricultural field,” Art Lafranchi said in a statement. “It is so rewarding to work either with animals or the land or both. I am especially thankful that I have had the chance to spend some time with young people, introducing them to life on the ranch, an opportunity they might otherwise have never have received. “

Alexander Valley grape grower Al Cadd, 86, a dedicated steward of the valley’s farmland and a vigilant protector of the Russian River, was honored with the Luther Burbank Conservation Award. The award recognizes Cadd’s caring ways in protecting water and farmland.

“In my heart I have always felt that we must preserve and protect what we have so there will be something left for thos who follow us,” said Cadd. He was joined in accepting the Luther Burbank Conservation Award by his wife of 65 years Alyce Cadd.

Rex and Kerry Williams and their children Wyatt and Olivia were honored as Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s “Farm Family of the Year.” The award recognizes contributions of family farmers like the Williams who represent the heart and soul of Sonoma County’s $3 billion annual farming industry. The Williams are first generation farmers who produce lamb, wool, hay and silage crops. They also are principal partners in Black Oaks Sheep Dairy, which produces milk for high end sheep cheese. The Williams tend more than 400 head of meat and dairy sheep, direct marketing their Williams Ranches lamb to customers from throughout the Bay Area.

The award recipients were escorted to the outdoor stage in a wagon pulled by Belgian draft horses, offering a taste of the power and glory of the Old West. The wagon and horses were driven by Pat Prather of Bodega who generously donated his time and talented team for the night. He was ably assisted by his wife Nancy Breen and helpers Michael Van Stone and Pat Christensen. Many people swelled with pride – and had tears in the eyes — when the spectacular Petaluma Riding and Driving Club’s senior drill team presented the colors while the national anthem was sung by Petaluma horsewoman and country singer Andrea Krout, who is the district representative for Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt.

The pageantry of the magnificent horses and beautifully costumed riders in the Petaluma Riding and Driving Club set against the natural beauty of Richard’s Grove was touching and inspiring. The skilled riders in the color guard were Caryn Hoeflein, Ali Arata, Rebecca Larcher and April Alianza.

The Love of the Land event was planned and coordinated by Farm Bureau directors and staff and assisted by dozens of tremendous volunteers from the community and members of the 4-H and FFA along with agriculture students from Santa Rosa Junior College, Cal Poly, Cornell, Chico State  and Fresno State universities. The Piner High School football team assisted in set-up and clean up for the event.

In keeping with the event’s spirit of sustainability and conservation, Sonoma County Farm Bureau made a concerted effort to minimize the waste – wine bottles, food scrapes and other waste – at the Love of the Land celebration. Farm Bureau contracted with Mary Munat, best known as “Green Mary” to channel the event’s waste for reuse and recycling so it did not end up in the landfill.

Lex McCorvey, executive director of Sonoma County Farm Bureau, said the Love of the Land celebration has become a mid-summer event on the calendar of many Wine Country residents. Like the Farm Bureau’s Great Sonoma County Crab and Wine Fest held in mid-winter, the Love of the Land brings people together to celebrate and support agriculture and farm youth while savoring fine wines and food.
“Wineries and food purveyors offered our guests the true flavor of Sonoma County,” said McCorvey.

The participating wineries and food vendors wre Balletto Vineyards & Winery, Baciagalupi Vineyards, BBQ Smoke House and Bistro Catering, Corks Restaurant, D & L Carinalli Vineyards, Davis Family Vineyards, De La Montanya Winerya & Vineyards, Di Vine Pizza, Dutcher Crossing Winery, Dutton-Goldfield Winery, Emeritus Vineyards, Evan’s Pesto, Field Stone Winery, Flour Creations, Hook & Ladder Winery, Jacobs Farm Del Cabo & Virginia’s Live-A-Little Dressing, James Family Cellars, Jimtown Store, Kokomo Winery, Kunde Family Estate, La Crema Winery, Laurel Glen Vineyards, Marcucci Farms & Winery, Martin Ray Winery, Mazzocco Winery, Matrix Winery, McEvoy Ranch, Montemaggiore, Pech Merle Winery, Pedroncelli Winery, Petaluma Creamery, Peterson Winery, Portalupi Wine Co., Robert Young Estate Winery, Rocker Oysterfeller’s Kitchen & Saloon, Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar, Route 128 Winery, Russian River Vineyards, Sbragia Family Vineyards, Sheldon Winery, Stryker Sonoma Winery, Sweet T’s Restaurant and Bar, Taft Street Winery, The Donum Estate, The Zinful Chef, Truett Hurst Winery, Valley Ford Cheese Co., Valley of the Moon Winery, Vintage Valley Catering and Wilson Winery.

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