By CDFA Secretary Karen Ross
It’s not quite New Year’s Eve yet, but I’ve already got the kernel of a resolution taking root in my mind for 2020. It’s about stories – stories about people. About farmers and ranchers. About the power their stories hold to illustrate the importance of the policies we create and enact and enforce as public servants.
During last week’s meeting of the Strategic Growth Council, nearly $57 million was approved for distribution as part of the Sustainable Agricultural Land Program (SALC). Of course, it is always rewarding to be in a position to support great work with grants and easement funds, but the SALC is so inspiring because of the stories we hear each year from the farmers, ranchers and land trusts.
The heartfelt words of a third- or fourth-generation farmer who shares the joy of being able to know that an easement ensures this family land will be there for the next generation and generations to come to grow food and fiber and care for that place provides a sense of what it means to live and work on the land.
One of my SGC colleagues thanked last week’s group of easement recipients for “feeding us – literally, and our souls with the values you shared with us today.” And I thought to myself, “These folks can tell a good story.”
My story starts with a deep-seated passion for the land where I grew up and the land we steward for agricultural production here in California. It comes from my Dad, who was enthralled with conservation and spent hours with our local soil scientist from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. It comes from my maternal grandmother who often said, “We can’t make more farmland” when she sadly reminisced about having to sell her family farm because of too many failed crops and increasing debt in the fifties.
My story continues and my passion is nurtured on an almost daily basis when I witness the amazing work I see farmers and ranchers doing to provide us so much more than just the crop they harvest utilizing conservation practices to improve air and water quality, open space, pollinator habitat and wildlife corridors in addition to beautiful spaces for agri-tourism!
In this holiday season may you, too, know the joys of what this land produces to feed us and may you be inspired knowing the great care our farmers, ranchers, and conservationists give to this land for future generations.
So, back to my resolution – I’ll do it if you will: As you travel and mingle with friends and friends-to-be over the holidays and throughout 2020, seek out the farmers in whatever room you find yourself in. You might have to draw them out a bit, but I promise it will be worth it. They have such great stories to tell.