The Continuing “Ag-Ventures” of Sonoma County’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

September 01, 2012
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Attendees of USDA-funded training program for beginning farmers and ranchers

In the Summer 2012 issue of Edible Marin & Wine Country, we introduced you to Sonoma County’s new three-year USDA-funded training program for beginning farmers and ranchers. The program—a partnership between Sonoma County, the University of California Regents, Santa Rosa Junior College and the Latino Service Providers—welcomed its first 25 students this past March. The budding agriculturalists have now attended four classes and multiple optional sessions with various local master farmers and ranchers.

Here is what a few of them have to say about what led them to apply for the program and their experiences so far:

Annya Maskey worked for several years in a restaurant where she says she saw the demand for fresh local food. She enrolled in sustainable agriculture classes at Santa Rosa Junior College, which led her to want to farm and provide a healthier lifestyle for her daughter and herself. Regarding the program, Annya says, “We have access to so much information through our instructors and advisors; counselors to help with our business plans; and mentors sharing real market trends, risks and experience.”

Augustino Malisa grew up in a farming family in Tanzania, but here in the United States he worked at a grocery store. There he saw farmers delivering their goods, and kept asking himself, “Why not me?” He has a family now and wants to provide for them and his community with what he grows. Of the program Tino reports, “Using the skills and knowledge I’ve gained these few months, I’ve been promoted to farm manager! I feel pretty happy managing the farm!”

Emely Hernandez has worked as a public health nurse focusing on maternal and child health and disease control for four years. She knows the value of growing and eating healthy food and wants to share that with others. Emely explains, “Working closely with our impoverished community, I see the need
to improve health opportunities for everyone. I don’t want economic status to control the nutrition of our children. I want to be a part of creating change for our youth. And this training program is helping me put my passion down on paper.”

—Linda Peterson, Sonoma County UCCE. 
Contact Linda at for more information.

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