The topic of Class XXXII’s first Leadership Santa Rosa program day was Agriculture. After our fascinating pretour of a mushroom farm in Sebastopol, I was excited to see what the day would bring, but not so excited about starting at 6am. Ugh! I can’t complain too much though, since our first stop was the Bucher Dairy, a 2nd generation family-owned organic dairy farm on 360 acres near Healdsburg, where they are up every day at 1am to start milking the cows. Yikes! They have 700 dairy cows producing milk for Clover Storneta, and in recent years planted a 40 acre vineyard to support their own wine label, Bucher. I learned a lot about how the farm operates and how they have integrated new technology over time to increase efficiency, including creating their own “plate cooler” that works like a heat exchanger to passively cool the milk with stored water.
Our next stop was Santa Rosa Junior College’s Shone Farm for a panel discussion with Tony Linegar, the Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner, Karissa Kruse, the President of the Sonoma County Wingrowers, and Doug Beretta from Beretta Family Organic Dairy.
We learned of the variety of crops and livestock produced within Sonoma County, including the importance of the wine, grapes, and associated tourism which accounts for $13.4 billion. One of the recent challenges for the ag industry has been the severe drought in California. Many types of crops have been devastated by the drought, including feed crops for livestock, while the ag industry has been under pressure from the public to reduce their water use. Many farmers have been irrigating with recycled water for years, but efforts by the public to lower their water use have caused recycled water to become more scarce. Aggravating the issue is the fact that grape vines can look green even when they have not been watered in months.
Following the panel discussion, we were treated to a hay-ride around Shone Farm, with the Farm Manager, Leonard Diggs leading the tour and driving the tractor. On October 10th, the farm hosted their annual Fall Festival where the public had a chance to see the farm in all its harvest season glory, and buy a pumpkin for Halloween.
Next up was a panel discussion at the Dutton Ranch with Steve Dutton of Dutton Goldfield Winery, Robert Lavine, the Sustainability Manager of the Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW), and Joe Pozzi of Pozzi Ranch. Here we learned more about the SCW’s commitment to make Sonoma County the nation’s first 100% sustainable wine region within the next five years. Through their certification program, which takes a triple bottom line approach (social, environmental, and financial), they provide assessment, proofing, and annual audits for the vineyards to improve their operations.
Our next stop was Imwalle Gardens, a 17 acre farm and produce market in Santa Rosa. They don’t grow very much on site anymore, but they have a dedicated base of local customers who have been shopping there for years. The owner’s grandfather started the business by riding a horse into town to sell vegetables, stopping for wine at each stop. The property is amazing, with an old redwood barn and a Tudor style house built in 1932.
Our journey came to an end at the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, where our class discussed some ideas for a legacy project and also received a preview for next month’s topic, Government and Politics. Stay tuned!