Opinion: Connecting with agriculture in our community

A driver uses a hay squeeze to hoist hay bales, a mix of orchard grass and alfalfa, from a delivery truck at Corralitos Feed and Pet Supply in Corralitos recently. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula)

Focus on Agriculture will soon be two years old. Back in early 2017, I was given the opportunity to be in charge of this section, which is inserted into newspapers from Watsonville to Atascadero. It’s been both a challenge and a joy, and it’s opened my eyes to the incredible role agriculture has in our state, our counties and our small farming towns.

I grew up in Watsonville. From my house I could hear the clanking of bottles and the smell of vinegar from S. Martinelli & Co. I saw fields, apple orchards and food packing plants around every corner. I went to school with kids whose families were part of the industry; some of them owned farms, many of their parents were farmworkers. Growing up here, I had a lot of exposure to agriculture.

But there was so much I did not know. Over the past two years, I’ve learned more about farming in this county than I had for the first 30 years of my life.

I have met some amazing people, including Dick Peixoto from Lakeside Organic Gardens, Javier Zamora of JSM Organics and the amazing team at Live Earth Farm.

I’ve been to small family farms like Everett Family Farm in Soquel and Crystal Bay Farms in Watsonville, and I’ve interviewed amazing people such as Dr. Ann López from the Center for Farmworker Families.

This position also has me in contact with newspaper teams in King City and the Paso Robles area, which puts in perspective just how incredible this region of our state is for agriculture and how much it affects the rest of the country, even the world.

But despite all of this amazing experience, I still sometimes struggle with knowing exactly where to look for stories.

What I’ve found is that certain times of the year, it is quite easy to find content. Summer, as well as the harvest season in September and October, are possibly the busiest time of the year for farming in California. There are festivals, events, planting, harvesting, etc.

Other times of the year, like January, are a bit more challenging. Despite this region’s relatively mild climate, agriculture does slow down at this time quite substantially. It’s more difficult at this time as an outsider to observe what is happening within the industry.

I know that I’ve just scratched the surface of what is happening year-round here in Watsonville, in Monterey County and beyond.

Which is why I ask our readers: Reach out to us if you think there is something important happening in agriculture in our community that we haven’t touched upon. Do you have a small family farm? Will there be a farm-related event happening in the area soon? Is there a local issue you think needs to be addressed, or a national issue that affects us on a local level?

In our small communities, agriculture plays a monumental role. Which is why all of us who contribute to Focus on Agriculture know there is much more going on than we alone are aware of. We want to know what you know, and also what you care about.

Here’s to another year of Focus on Agriculture. Let’s make it a good one.

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Johanna Miller can be reached at [email protected] or (831) 761-7303.

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