Young Leaders Learn that Milk and Eggs Are Still Petaluma’s Bread and Butter

Written By: Tim Tesconi
Published: October 28, 2011

Petaluma area students had an “Ah-ha” moment when they learned that the Petaluma area produces more eggs today than it did in the 1940’s when the tiny town held the title “Egg Capital of the World.” The lesson: there are still lots of chickens and eggs around Petaluma.

That bit of egg enlightenment came when students in the South County Class of Tomorrow’s Leaders Today visited Sunrise Farms and heard a presentation by Arnie Riebli, managing partner of the poultry company that produces more than 1 million eggs a day on its ranches in Sonoma County. Sunrise Farms supplies most of the eggs consumed within a 65 mile radius of Petaluma. The company’s eggs feed millions of people every day, supplying an economical source of high-quality protein. Eggs from Sunrise are sold under 45 different labels that includes all of the major grocery store chains in the Bay Area.

Riebli said two large poultry operations Sonoma County produce more eggs today – with fewer laying hens – than the thousands of mom-and-pop chicken farms were able to produce in the 1940’s. That’s when Petaluma was world famous for its egg production and proudly boasted to being the Egg Capital of the World. That title was part of a clever marketing campaign by the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce to promote the River Town that prospered because of the poultry and dairy farms in the area.

In addition to Sunrise Farms, the students in the Tomorrow’s Leaders Today program visited Larry Peter’s historic Petaluma Creamery, Neve Brothers Roses, Gallo of Sonoma’s “Stony Point Vineyards” across from the Washoe House, the Tomrose Heritage Ranch and the Jim Riebli Dairy.

The tour was arranged by Sonoma County Farm Bureau, which is working with the Tomorrow’s Leaders Today program to educate high-achieving high school juniors about the county’s $3 billion farming industry. Students also learned about farmers’ land stewardship and the efforts underway to preserve and enhance the region’s natural resources for future generations.

It’s all part of Farm Bureau’s mission to educate urban consumers about the county’s thriving farm industry. This fall Farm Bureau is assisting the TLT program with four tours designed to give the future leaders an understanding of both the diversity and complexity of modern agriculture. There are nearly 150 students from public and private high schools participating in the community education and leadership skills training program. TLT was founded in 1991 with the mission of developing and encouraging youth to be community leaders. Today, there are more than 1,000 TLT graduates fulfilling this mission.

The South County TLT tour was held on Sept. 22. Farm Bureau also coordinated or assisted with TLT tours on Aug. 22, Sept. 30 and Oct. 3. The tour was an eye-opening experience for the students, who are mostly urban residents far removed from the farm.

I learned so much about our community and how the agricultural play such a big role in our county, something I never truly realized,” said TLT student Morgan Thomas.  “I was in the dark about the agricultural part of our town until this trip when I learned about all the different business that our town offers including the Neve Bros. flower farm.

TLT student Brian Rogers said he was amazed at the diversity of agriculture in the county.

The main thing that I was able to take from the day was that sustainability in agriculture is the future. It was evident throughout the places we visited that sustainability is a focus and is the future of farming in Sonoma County,” said Rogers.

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