By Timothy Collins, Chair, Kern County Young Farmers & Ranchers
The pleasant spring weather gave the Kern County Young Farmers and Ranchers the great opportunity to have tours of two small family-owned farms at our last two meetings. In April, we toured Maggenti Show Goats out at Poncetta Farms, and then less than two weeks later in May, we picked cherries and toured Murray Family Farms. In a world where farming seems to be becoming more and more corporate, it was exciting to see two small family operations active in Kern County.
We learned about the Poncetta family immigrating to Kern County and starting a farm over 100 years ago. Poncetta Farms has transitioned over the years, but it has still stayed small and family-run. In addition to the family farm, Mike Poncetta found a niche market in raising and selling show goats and created his own company, Maggenti Show Goats. For a decade now, his hobby has turned into a successful business producing many champion goats. By embracing the opportunities technology provides, they are now auctioning goats online to buyers across the county and even occasionally to other countries.
In May, we met at the Big Red Barn of Murray Family Farms. We left the popular pitstop off highway 58 and were taken down into the orchards by Steve Murray who explained to us the process and challenges of growing cherries. Unlike many family farms today, Murray is a first-generation farm with Steve himself founding it in the 1980s. To be successful, he also had to find a niche in the massive and diverse California agriculture market. He explained that his niche was cherries, which he often sells at farmer’s markets in addition to his own store. He started with next to nothing and now farms hundreds of acres growing over a hundred varieties of fruits and vegetables, while still focusing on cherries.
While we think of most farms or companies being founded long ago when it was easier to do so, at both tours we learned that there are still opportunities for new farms and companies in California. There are niche markets yet to be taken advantage of and we have the technology to make it possible. Sometimes farming seems synonymous with complaining. Nobody is saying it’s going to be easy, but as Steve Murray told us, “There’s never been a better time for young people to get involved in agriculture.”
In our support of young people in agriculture, YF&R is excited to announce that our Ag Grant applications are now available! We will be giving out 10 grants between $250 and $750 each to local 4-H members and FFA students who are showing an animal at the Kern County Fair this fall. Applications can be found on our Instagram and Facebook pages or by emailing us. Be sure to tell everyone you know who is eligible to apply before applications close July 1st! Also, we are looking forward to our 7th annual Charity Farmer’s market planned for Saturday, July 16th. If your farm or company is interested in donating produce, please reach out to us.