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Success in Agriculture: What is it?

Agriculture in Marin has changed in the last decade or so. What does that mean to producers? Is it better than the industry we had 15 years ago? Worse? The same? In the long run, the producers need to be successful, no matter what mix of marketing models they choose.

We asked local farmers and ranchers this question: “What is success in agriculture?” This turned out to be the fundamental discussion of the very successful 2010 Marin Agricultural Summit. The answers, as you would expect, were predictable and unpredictable, varied, and inspiring. Here are some thoughtful highlights: 

Merv McDonald

Merv McDonald put it quite practically and reminds us of what our business, community, and personal relationships are all about: “Work; don’t be afraid to work. Treat people like you want to be treated. And be honest. Otherwise, it will catch up to you.”

Al Poncia

Al Poncia: “Our success has not been without sacrifice, stubbornness and perseverance. Agriculture is always facing serious challenges, and needs to be ready to meet them. You need to make enough to raise your kids, and have some left over for retirement. But ultimately, if you are really lucky, you may be able to spend your life in the place you love, doing what you love, and being able to pass the whole thing on to your next generation.”

Peter Martinelli
Peter Martinelli: “You need to make enough to keep going. Farming is more than just a job. It’s a whole way of life, so you need to enjoy what you are doing. Ultimately, it is a matter of personal fulfillment. For success to be real here in Marin County, I think we need a lot more farmers (row crop farmers) here in Marin. We can’t provide the produce that is in demand by any means without more farmers.”

Brigid Lunny
Brigid Lunny: “Success to me would be carrying on this ranch the way my parents (Nancy and Kevin Lunny) and grandparents (Joan and Joe Lunny) have built and sacrificed for. I want to make them happy and proud of us for carrying on the ranch. They have all worked so hard. It’s not always about the money though. This is our home, and I’ll be here as long as the ranch is here.”

Richie Grossi
Richie Grossi: “The main thing about our success is that we like it. That’s number one. But you have to be pretty tight on your management, because if you don’t watch it, you’re not in business. In the good years, you have to put some away, and that’ll help you through the lean years.”

Julie Rossotti
Julie Rossotti: “To me, success is to produce a great quality goat meat, the best that I can put out on the market here in the Bay Area, and keep our operation really local. I think that we have a really great start on promoting something that people are just becoming aware of.”

Bobby Foehr
Bobby Foehr: “Success for me right now is trying to cut costs without touching my reputation for high quality layers and chicks. Quality is a huge part of my operation, the way I treat my birds and deliver them to customers. As a young farmer I have gotten enthusiastic support. I work every day, but it’s on my own terms - sort of. Hey, it’s better than working in the City!”

Liz Daniels
Liz Daniels: “I feel the success when we feed people. There is something so satisfying about knowing that your farm product is going out to so many people in Marin County. I’m passionate about it. That’s what drives our success. Passion.”

Ashley Arndt
Ashley Arndt: “Success is different for everybody, since everyone’s operation is a little different. For me, I want to follow in my grandfather Richie’s (Grossi) footsteps. He has worked hard to be successful, and I don’t want to change that. I get to do so much here on the ranch that other kids will never get a chance to experience. I love it here. I wouldn’t change a thing.”