Thursday, August 10, 2006
The first 9 years of my life was spent growing up on the military base on Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay! I am the youngest of six children. What great memories of my childhood! My father was a career Army man, he retired from the army after the end of WWII. We were one of the last family's to move from the "island". My Mother , A Russian immigrant who learned to speak English to obtain her U.S. citizenship, never mentioned that one day someone would send a gift to me, by USPS, simply addressed to : "CHRISTMAS TREE Lady" (town),CA. Wow, the postal service always delivers! Potter Valley was my parents choice for retirement after the military and so began my "farming education". We had a few acres and could have a garden, cow and chickens and I loved that place. We moved to Ukiah when I started high school! Many years later I married DH ( God has blessed us with 41 years of married bliss!) DH, then a pear farmer, and also a licensed Pest Control Advisor monitoring other farmers pear orchards. Together we raised our 5 children, and yes I learned to drive a tractor. During frost time when the frost alarm would ring at various times in the early a.m., I would tow DH in his homemade "chariot" holding a flame thrower to light the orchard heaters. When we began pear harvest I drove the tractor w/a bin mover on it, also while sorting pears that were being picked and put in the bins to assure that only quality ones were taken to the pear packing shed of which we were members. As our three son's grew up they relieved me of the tractor job!! With the continual sea of paper work that it takes to operate any farming business I was able to draw on my business courses from both high school and community college.
In the 1970's it became apparent that there was a need to educate and inform the majority of our population about the food and fiber they are dependant upon was being supplied by a minority of the population: the dedicated farmers. I then became a charter member of the local county chapter of California Women for Agriculture, a non partisan organization. We felt the need to speak up for the busy farmers that were attending to their crops and could not leave their fields. Serving as the chapters first V.P and then President was a great privilege and experience. One of the speeches I gave starts out: "FARMERS ARE GAMBLERS IN DISGUISE", (they gamble on their crops, weather, workers and the market place.) That speech always amazed the listeners, as the average consumer never looks at a farmer as a "gambler". (The food is always on the grocery store shelf!) Assisting with local county elementary classroom presentations of "How Pears Grow" was always enjoyable. Our annual yard sales were a huge success and allowed our group to offer scholarships to local college students pursing An Ag related degree. Meeting w/ CWA members from all over the state of California, some who were "urban dwellers", some farm wives all who were as dedicated to preserving and educating the public about agriculture, was also a privilege. We learned from each other and that gave us the ability to speak to the non-agriculture sectors of our populated great state about issues that affected agriculture. Meeting w/our legislators in Sacramento is a plus to tell our story. I have changed my member ship from "very active" to "very supportive" as I now purse other interest that is less stressful. (Quilting!!)
Starting our choose and cut Christmas Tree farm was a huge gamble and departure in 1982, from operating our former pear orchard. I am still the "support" person. It took us several years of research before we "pulled" our 24 acre pear orchard. As in any commercial farming enterprise it is not for the "faint of heart". It is a huge commitment. We are committed to offering the"just right tree" to our customers that return every year. DH and part time helpers do all physical work that goes in to the growing of our trees. As the Thanksgiving turkey roasts in the oven we are busily preparing to open the "farm" the next day. We greet our dedicated customers with a "sincere "Merry Christmas" and we see the growing and expanding of families, keeping their tradition. They always share w/us how their year went and how long they had their tree up. (One year a lady kept hers up until Valentines Day). Over the last 19 years of selling trees, those that came w/their parents are now bringing their children. Many newlywed's come for their first tree. It is a honor when when of them comes w/their first born and says they hope we will be here for their grandchildren. (I do not think so!)