On July 21, dozens of environmental allies, farmers, dairymen, elected officials and others spent an evening with Greenbelt Alliance and the Sonoma County Farm Bureau at a jointly-sponsored midsummer mixer in Santa Rosa.
Ten years ago, our two organizations collaborated on a report titled Preventing Sprawl, so the mixer was more of a reunion, than an introduction. But many of us met for the first time. As North Bay Regional Director, I organized the event with Executive Director Tim Tesconi of the Farm Bureau to bring the conservation and farming communities together.
Farmers and conservationists face common obstacles in Sonoma County: the loss of agricultural lands and the threat of sprawl development. Below are some of their stories.
Farm Bureau director Doug Berretta told us about how all the organic milk produced on his family’s dairy farm outside of Sebastopol was getting shipped to Wallaby Yogurt in American Canyon to make yogurt and kefir. He recently purchased and took over the operation from his father. Today, almost every dairy in Sonoma County is now 100 percent organic.
Berretta’s neighbor Domenico Carinalli just sold the last of his herd of conventional cows to make way for organic cows, which must meet strict standards. He and his family also grow grapes and make Italian-style wines.
Ray Mulas of Sonoma Valley is also a long-time dairyman who has gone all-organic. He also grows grapes and serves as a volunteer for his local Schell-Vista fire department.
Jim Pozzi, past president of the Farm Bureau, joined us from his lamb and cattle ranch out near the coast above the hamlet of Bodega. He is raising natural, grass-fed lambs and cattle, as well as producing wool. Tim Tesconi calls him “a new breed of American rancher who balances economic viability with environmental stewardship.“
Farm Bureau President John Azevedo is the new face of the Farm Bureau. A native and lifelong resident of Sonoma County, he is also manager of grower relations for Jackson Family Wines.
Greenbelt Alliance board members Noreen Evans, Jake Mackenzie, and Dee Swanhuyser said that they were thrilled with the turnout. Among the attendees were Assemblymember Jim Wood, his aid Ed Sheffield, Windsor City Councilmember Deb Fudge, and folks from the Sonoma Land Trust, Community Alliance for Family Farmers, and UC Cooperative Extension.
Earlier that day, Greenbelt Alliance Program Director Sara Fain and I spoke with the Natural Resources Committee of the Farm Bureau about renewing community separators. The consensus was that we need to renew the existing policies to protect the county’s vital agricultural lands. Greenbelt Alliance plans to continue the dialogue with the Sonoma County Farm Bureau as we identify lands that should be considered for community separator designations. The Farm Bureau’s expertise has also been integral to our upcoming Barriers to Farming & Ranching report due out later in 2015.
We look forward to continuing our work with the Sonoma County Farm Bureau to help agriculture in the county thrive.
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Photo: Sonoma County Farm Bureau