The California Connection: Highlighting the food we love to eat & the farms and ranches that grow it

By Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition

I have been working in the farming industry nearly all of my life. When I was 15, my father moved us from the Bay Area to a farm we had owned in Merced County for many years. Years later, I ran the Young Farmers and Ranchers leadership program for the California Farm Bureau and served for 11 years as the executive director for the Merced County Farm Bureau. And for nearly two decades, I’ve been working with the farming community through the California Farm Water Coalition.

During my time in agriculture, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of the men and women who run and work California farms, ranches and dairies. I’ve learned firsthand and from others about the patience and precision needed to raise crops and animals, and about farmers’ relentless commitment to producing high-quality and affordable foods to feed California families. It’s a responsibility they do not take lightly.

I realize that my experience and understanding is not universal among all Californians. Many who’ve grown up in metropolitan regions of our state have never been to a ranch and have never met a farmer. They haven’t had the pleasure of picking an apple straight from a tree, and they may not know the state they call home leads the country in production of dairy and many fruits and vegetables.

This is why I’m so encouraged by the Cultivate California program and the website you see here. The program aims to bring Californians together to better understand the true value of farming and ranching and to introduce them to some of the same hardworking men and women in agriculture whom I have personally spoken with over the years.

California’s historic drought has thrown our farms and ranches into the spotlight in a way we haven’t seen before. And that’s also why this program is important. Despite a deep admiration for the bounty of food grown here, research conducted to help develop the Cultivate California program found that a large portion of our population is unaware of the many ways farmers and ranchers are doing their part to invest in new technologies and sustainable, water-efficient practices.

In all of my time associated with farming, I’ve wanted to be part of an effort that aims to tell a cohesive, unified story about the value of farming in a way that really resonates with Californians. Agriculture is vital to the health of our local, state and national economies and touches each of us every single day. Through Cultivate California, it’s my hope that our collective understanding about farming and ranching continues to be nurtured and grow.