(Photo courtesy of California Farm Bureau Federation)

By Rachel Nettleton, Executive Director, Kern County Farm Bureau

This month marks my one-year anniversary with the Kern County Farm Bureau, and it has been a transformative journey. Coming from a non-agricultural professional background, I had a steep learning curve ahead of me. However, this industry welcomed me with open arms and offered a fresh perspective on the vital role agriculture plays in our lives.

Being born and raised in Bakersfield, surrounded by Kern County’s agricultural lands, I often say that I have always been a part of agriculture. Reflecting on my childhood, I recall mornings when I was late to elementary school because sheep were being herded across the road. In high school, as an avid runner, I frequently ran along dirt roads flanked by vast farmlands. These memories are vivid reminders of the agricultural landscape that once dominated our area.

Today, those sheep and dirt roads have primarily vanished, replaced by residential developments, paved streets, and streetlights. Change is inevitable, and with time, we often forget the nuances of our past. My involvement in the agriculture industry has illuminated the significant transformations over the past 20 to 30 years. This reflection raises a pressing question: what will our agricultural landscape look like in a few decades?

This reflection underscores the urgency of supporting and advocating for our agriculture industry. It’s crucial for the next generation to understand the origins of their food and recognize the value of farmland. While immersing myself in this new industry, the profound impact of evolving regulations on our community became evident almost immediately. My commitment is strong, and I am dedicated to fighting for our farmers and ranchers. You don’t need an agricultural background to join this fight. If you eat food and wear clothes, you are already a supporter of agriculture. However, it requires a concerted effort from all of us to advocate for the needs of this essential industry.

The transformation of Bakersfield’s landscape from farmland to residential areas is a microcosm of broader changes happening nationwide. Urbanization and regulatory pressures have reshaped the agricultural sector, presenting both challenges and opportunities. As we witness these changes, it’s imperative to remember the importance of agriculture not just as an industry but as a cornerstone of our daily lives. Agriculture is more than just an occupation; it is the lifeblood of our communities. It feeds us, clothes us, and sustains our economy. The disappearance of sheep from our roads and the conversion of dirt paths into concrete streets are symbolic of the broader shifts in agricultural practices and land use. These changes prompt us to consider how we can preserve the essence of agriculture while adapting to modern demands.

The future of agriculture depends on our collective efforts to support and sustain it. Advocacy is crucial in ensuring that agricultural policies reflect the needs of our farmers and ranchers. By engaging in policy discussions, raising awareness, and supporting sustainable practices, we can help shape a future where agriculture thrives. We need to champion policies that protect farmland, support farmers, and advocate for their protection. This includes advocating for fair regulations that consider the unique challenges faced by the agricultural sector. Additionally, education also plays a vital role. By educating the public about the importance of agriculture, we can foster a deeper appreciation and support for this industry.

As I celebrate my one-year milestone with the Kern County Farm Bureau, I am more committed than ever to the agricultural community. The journey ahead is filled with challenges, but it is also brimming with opportunities. Together, we can ensure that the next generation understands and values the importance of agriculture. The fight for agriculture is not just the responsibility of those within the industry. It is a collective effort that requires support from all sectors of society. Whether you have a background in agriculture or not, your voice matters. By supporting local farmers, participating in community discussions, and advocating for fair policies, you can contribute to this vital industry.

The time to act is now. Let’s work together to preserve our agricultural heritage.

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