By Dayna Ghirardelli, Executive Director
This month marks a year since I started as the executive director of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, and quite a year it has been! To say I’ve learned a lot is an understatement. To say I have much more to learn cannot be overstated; there are always things to learn. To say this role has been a challenge is a fair statement, but it has also been rewarding. In many ways, I feel like this is where I belong at this stage of my life and career.
This role had me jumping right into county policy issues where the Sonoma County Farm Bureau needed to be part of the discussions. The Ag Access Verification Card Program, the Well-Ordinance, and the Local Coastal Plan forced me to plunge in head-first. Having previously helped with getting access to properties, businesses, and animals during fires, the ag access verification card discussion was not terribly foreign; although there were clearly added technicalities that I needed to familiarize myself with. The well-ordinance had me in the deep end a bit, but I received first-hand knowledge of the “consensus-building” process as a member of the policy working group created by Permit Sonoma to ensure input from various interests. The local coastal plan update is the most frustrating of these three in-depth topics. Working to strike a balance between bureaucracy and on-the-ground, real-time land management is an astonishing struggle. The Coastal Act’s intent is to protect the coastal zone by prioritizing agriculture, natural resources, and public access. I am confused every day at how hard we as farmers and ranchers, and ultimately environmentalists must work to protect our ability to manage our lands and animals and protect our private property rights. These challenges are in addition to the more recent and upcoming issues and projects such as the Russian River Water Forum regarding the Potter Valley Project and the importance of maintaining water diversions to the Russian River; the upcoming Tree Ordinance; the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Draft Vineyard Permit; and the Sonoma County General Plan Update. The Ag Access Verification Card Program is going back to the Board of Supervisors on September 19th and the Coastal Commission will be reviewing and responding to the County’s approved Local Coastal Plan in late Fall.
I was also immediately tasked with hiring staff to fill positions that had been vacated. This was a challenge from the standpoint that I didn’t even know exactly what I needed; I was still learning myself. However, I knew I wanted to create an environment that was team-oriented and appreciated. I can tell you without reservation, that this ended up being a very rewarding task. The Farm Bureau team is amazing! I am surrounded by smart, bright, motivated, caring, and passionate people who work tirelessly for this organization to protect and promote Sonoma County agriculture.
These were the challenges that immediately came to mind when I reflected upon my first year at the Farm Bureau. My greatest challenge, however, is writing this article! Coming up with content monthly is difficult. In these past twelve months, I’ve had to contain myself from being sarcastic and condescending when I’d rather air my frustration on issues that are so straightforward to us. It feels almost impossible to be effective and malleable sometimes, yet this monthly exercise is one that keeps me grounded to some extent. It encourages me to reflect upon myself and my opinions, knowing that we are all different despite our desire for the same results. I will say, though, that writer’s block is real, y’all!
With a year under my belt, a tremendous team of employees, an intelligent and helpful board of directors, and you, our supportive members, I am confident in this organization and all that we can accomplish! The Sonoma County Farm Bureau is strengthening relationships, supporting the community, and raising the bar in advocating for all that is important to agriculture and our County.