I recently had a chance to visit a lemon grower and a packing house down in Southern California’s Ventura county. I really didn’t know what to expect; with places like Santa Barbara, and Malibu, the Pacific Coast Highway and miles of beaches, this is surfer heaven. It’s hard to associate farms and farming with surfboards and sunscreen. It just doesn’t compute that people grow food there.
Well, they do.
This is one of the prettiest places in the world to grow a lemon, and they do a fine job of it. And they do a great job of growing berries — as well as Avocados, celery, and lots of cut flowers and row crops. With an annual gross value of 2.2 billion dollars, It’s the 11th largest agricultural county in the Country. There are over 2,000 farms in the county and they grow more than 100 types of fruits, nuts, vegetables, and grains. Farming and farm-dependent businesses provide about 43,000 jobs in Ventura County.
But it’s still definitely southern California. This part of the state has been overrun with people. In Los Angeles and Orange counties, the old orchards and row crops now grow houses and strip malls; this is where they paved paradise and put in a parking lot. How did Ventura County escape that fate?
The county government recognizes its agricultural roots and supports farming. The county passed a ‘Right to Farm’ ordinance back in 1997. The ordinance helps resolve problems that arise when houses spring up next to farms, and the new residents start complaining about the sights and smells of ag. But the county goes further, with an active Ag Commissioner’s office that helps sponsor farm-related events, such as harvest festivals, farm tours, packing house tours, and more. It’s all part of a program called ‘Treasure Our Farms’. It’s is an education program designed to engage and inform the community about the value and beauty of Agriculture in Ventura County.
The mission is to remind people to honor farming. They teach the history of farming and the stories of Ventura County. Treasure Our Farms provides a deeper understanding of how agriculture and related industries impact and support a local economy.
It’s a program that could benefit farmers in other parts of the country. To learn more about it, visit their website at http://www.treasureourfarms.com.