As we gather with loved ones over the winter holidays, so many of us are fortunate not only to have family around us but also to have so much good food to share. As Californians, we are blessed by the variety and quality of fresh, nutritious food that our farmers and ranchers provide. They do it year in and year out, rain or shine, and they do it so dependably that we often take it for granted. We should not, of course – and this holiday season is an excellent opportunity to take stock of our good fortune and share it with those who are in need.
I recently took a quick trip around the Sacramento area to visit staff at several of our local offices, sharing a cup of hot cider or a potluck lunch with each group. The food was excellent (what else would you expect from a bunch of aggies?), but what impressed me the most was that each office I visited had chosen a local charitable organization to “adopt” or support. Some collected food items for the annual State Employees Food Drive which partners with California Foodlink; others donated toys for the California Highway Patrol’s local “CHiPs for Kids” program; a group of employees at one of our lab facilities was busy fulfilling a wish list from the Sacramento Children’s Home; another site was helping to supply a soup kitchen down the street; at our downtown office, employees on one floor were collecting socks for a local homeless shelter and another floor was gathering donations for the Sacramento Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The spirit of giving in this organization is tremendous, and I’m proud to be a part of an agency that understands the power of goodwill in action.
While I greatly enjoy being California’s agriculture secretary, and most of my days are good ones, that day was one of the best since I began this job. In a state where an estimated 15 percent of our households don’t know where their next meal might come from – where more than one in 10 children are considered “food insecure” – we have a duty as individuals, as farmers, as public servants, and as an agricultural community to be a part of the solution.
We’ve included several photos of our employees and the fruits of their charitable efforts below. Best wishes to you and yours this holiday season, and a special thank you to all of our California farming and ranching families for all they do.