By Paulette Swallow, with David Lewis and Julia Van Soelen Kim
Welcome to the Spring 2016 issue. As Editor of Grown in Marin News, I review each article and ask myself, “What insights are we sharing with our readers? What message can we send about the state of agriculture in Marin County?” Over the winter while things are slower for many farmers and ranchers, there have been a series of conferences up and down the California coast . Some of them have been put on by fellow UC Cooperative Extension colleagues, and some by other agriculture agencies. I have been fortunate enough to attend a few of them to learn and share alongside local producers. These educational opportunities ranged from food safety regulations, to dairy management practices, to agriculture industry projections, and climate change. Also, in the last two weeks, I have found myself digging holes in pastures to sample soil and send it into a lab for analysis, in preparation for a “soil health” workshop. So, I ask, “What’s the take home message in all of this new information?”
The message I got after attending these conferences was this: participating producers attended these conferences because we want to be better farmers and ranchers. Agriculture in all respects—whether milking cows or growing greens—is a very progressive enterprise. There are always new methods to aid farmers and ranchers in becoming more efficient, innovative equipment to improve work conditions for themselves, employees, and livestock, breakthroughs in animal genetics to improve heard function and health, advanced management tips to help mitigate pests and save crops, and new regulations around safe food handling practices and environmental protection.
A majority of the participants I spoke with were ranchers and farmers eager to learn the next best practice, track industry projections, be aware of risks they will need to manage in the future. I saw lots of wheels “turning” in their minds. Being a farmer is like a game of chess…..one wrong move and it’s game over! The improvements they consider making, which can be costly, are made to balance operation efficiency, humane animal practices, and environmental impacts and they make these improvements because they believe it is the right thing to do – period.
Farming really is a way of life, and in this issue, I invite you to take a glimpse into this lifestyle in an article by local farmer Mimi Luebbermann in “The Public on Your Porch: On-Farm Education at Windrush Farm,” and to hear directly from new and multi-generational Marin County farmers and ranchers who share their personal stories, accomplishments, and inspirations on their path towards agricultural diversification in “Stories from the Field - Live!.” Then learn how UCCE Marin supports our local farmers and ranchers in “What is the Ag Ombudsman, anyway?”
All the best,
|Julia Van Soelen Kim
North Bay Food Systems Advisor
Sustainable Ag Coordinator