Our hardworking local growers and ranchers deserve accolades every day for the work they do to feed the nation

Oct. 12 was National Farmer’s Day—a day set aside each year to honor the hardworking men and women who’ve dedicated their lives to feeding a nation. Did you even know about this event, or did it get lost in the clutter of “special days” on our calendars each year.

North County has a very large farm/ranch footprint. Anywhere you travel on our roads out of the urban areas you’ll see how our food is grown. In cities you’ll see large packaging houses and coolers that store and process the vegetables that are grown.

Farmers are very creative; much of the equipment they use is either “farm built” or manufactured from designs created by a farmer. These machines groom the fields, plant the crops, harvest, wash, and field pack the crops. Field packing is a very efficient use of labor and has been in use for a couple of decades.

Ranchers have a different challenge: how to feed their cattle. In the spring, the grass is usually high, but as the season changes to summer, it dries out and much of it has been grazed by the hungry livestock. By fall it’s gone. Real cowboys can be seen herding the cattle the old-fashioned way on horseback; unseen are the same cowboys tending to the watering sources so their cattle have water to drink or inspecting and mending their fences so the cows won’t wander onto our highways.

Farmers/ranchers are the original environmentalists; they are excellent stewards of their land and go the extra mile to protect the flora and fauna of the land. Water is a critical asset to their livelihood so they are careful to maintain the waterways and keep the water clean.

These farms and ranches provide jobs that many people don’t want to do. This is sometimes dirty but always hard work in all weather that requires both skill and patience as they tend to the animals and crops. If something breaks, they have to fix it, so they are very careful to maintain their equipment so breakdowns are less frequent.

The “executives” of these operations drive dusty pickup trucks, wear blue jeans and can often be seen out in the field checking on their crops and livestock. Most are very active in the daily field activities and are “hands on” owners. Their wives often maintain the books and make sure that the outflow of cash doesn’t exceed the income they earn. And their kids learn at an early age that it takes hard work to survive.

It takes thousands of hardworking men and women to make the food we grow. Unlike urban areas to the south of us, we have the privilege of seeing mounted riders moving cattle, farm machinery preparing the soil, and specially constructed harvesting equipment carefully placing the crops into boxes for shipment across the United States to grocery stores and restaurants.

It doesn’t matter if it’s cold or hot, rainy or windy, crews are out there because crops don’t wait; when they are ready for harvest, it’s time to put vegetables or fruit in the boxes for shipment.

Many of the workers that tend the fields are H-2A contract workers from Mexico. In Lompoc these folks arrive annually on comfortable buses, and many are housed in otherwise empty hotels in town. We see them frequently shopping in local retail outlets as they look for goods they can’t find back home.

Rarely, well almost never, do you hear of any problems caused by these folks; they just want to work, rest at the end of the day, and be left alone and return home at the end of the season.

Another very large farm/ranch operation has been conducted at the federal Bureau of Prisons facility outside Lompoc for many decades. Vandenberg Space Force Base has more than 90,000 acres, much of which is open space. The Bureau of Prisons does the same thing commercial farms/ranches do every day using both prison employees and prisoners.

The Bureau of Prisons also has a large dairy operation off of Santa Lucia Canyon Road just north of the Santa Ynez River.

This farm/ranch operation not only provides food for the Lompoc prison site but also ships food to other prisons, thus saving taxpayer dollars.

In my opinion, every day should be “farmers day.”

Ron Fink writes to the Sun from Lompoc. Send a letter for publication to [email protected].

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