By Timothy Collins, Chair, Kern County Young Farmers & Ranchers
The Young Farmers and Ranchers wrapped up 2022 with our elections meeting in November, followed by the YF&R State Conference in December. We are excited to introduce our 2023 officer team. I was elected as Chair again for another year, Christine Johnson as Vice Chair, Katie Verhoef as Treasurer, Russell Todd as Secretary, Christine Etcheverry as Social Media Coordinator, Cory Camp as Clay Shoot Chair, and Katelyn Filkins as Farmers Market Chair. We are already planning another year of meetings, tours, events, and fundraisers. While most of our focus is on Kern County, we also hope to be more involved in YF&R events around the state in 2023.
Several of us from Kern attended the YF&R State Conference held in Monterey in December.
While the consensus is that agriculture in California has a challenging future, we think it is worth fighting for and is an industry that YF&R members from across the state still want to be a part of. Building relationships with those members from across the state is always a highlight of the conference. In addition, they encourage those of us who are often pessimistic about the industry.
We had valuable speakers, interesting sessions, and networking opportunities at the conference over the weekend. However, the highlight for me was Sunday morning’s “Technology at Work in Salinas” tour. Salinas is a special place for me as it is where my great-grandpa eventually settled and worked on a farm after leaving Oklahoma following the Dust Bowl. Next, we toured Stout Industrial Technology where they were building smart cultivators that use cameras and AI technology to target weeds with mechanical blades, a job typically done by hand crews. We also stopped by PlantTape where they use automated transplanting equipment to increase efficiency and reduce larger labor crews. Our last stop was downtown Salina’s Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology. Here we learned about the continued tech advancements in ag and how Silicon Valley, just 60 miles to the North, can play a role.
My great-grandfather grew up with horses in Oklahoma and then drove tractors in Salinas in the 1940s and 50s. While he saw a major transformation with internal combustion engine workhorses taking over in his day, I am sure he would not have imagined the technology today, especially what is just around the corner. If there are opportunities in ag in California today, it is in more advanced technology. This technology can keep California the top ag producer in a climate where our ag industry is under attack.