Q: Tell us about yourself?
A: My first taste of agriculture was on my Dad’s 40-acre small farm in New Hampshire where he tapped maple syrup and raised chickens. After my dad switched to a career in robotics and artificial intelligence, my family relocated to Marietta, Georgia where I completed K-12. Following family tradition, I attended the University of Michigan and obtained a degree in environmental science and a minor in global climate change. Straight out of college, my first job was working in Washington, D.C., where I served as an in-house consultant to the small business division of the EPA and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. After leaving D.C., I spent a short time being a snowboard bum in South Lake Tahoe, followed by volunteering on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to assist with their elderly meals assistance program. I eventually found my way down to San Diego, because I was attracted to the beautiful beaches and surfing. For over a decade, I have been working with San Diego engineering firms to provide local, state and federal regulatory compliance for large scale, complex development projects. I am a County of San Diego qualified Environmental Impact Report Preparer, served on the Jamul-Dulzura Community Planning Group and am a Commissioner on the San Diego County Fish and Wildlife Advisory Commission.
I am a mother to three children and my husband and I own a small farm (Bee Valley Farm) which focuses on growing garlic, olives and producing honey. My husband, Mannah, is a Navy veteran and comes from a family of rubber tree farmers. Raised in Liberia, West Africa, Mannah’s family fled from a civil war in his home country at the age of 10 and lived on a refugee camp in Ghana for 7 years. During his time on the refugee camp, agriculture was a fundamental part of life, as growing vegetables to supplement rations was imperative. Mannah and I share a passion for growing food and in our spare time, we founded, incorporated and managed a local 501c(3) not-for-profit corporation that grew fresh fruits and vegetables to distribute to individuals in need, for free. We also managed the Rancho San Diego Farmers Market. Prior to being hired as the San Diego County Farm Bureau Executive Director, I served as a voting member on our Board of Directors for two years and represented the organization in both Sacramento and Washington D.C. I also served as Chair on our Membership Assistance Committee.
Q: You have a background in environmental science. Why are you passionate about supporting the local agricultural industry?
A: I feel strongly that the most environmentally friendly action any individual can take is to support their local agricultural system. San Diego County has one of the most complex regulatory environments in the nation and although that presents a major challenge to our farmers, it should provide consumers with a high level of confidence that our local farmers and ranchers operate some the most ethical, humane and environmentally friendly agricultural practices in the world. I believe San Diego agriculture serves as the national model for what agriculture should look like and I am disappointed at the amount of anti-agriculture rhetoric I hear directed at our local agricultural producers. When we create a situation where agriculture is no longer a viable career path, we are faced with a scenario where our food supply is instead obtained from sources located out of state or out of the country. These food sources are often dirtier, less humane and less ethical. The San Diego farmers I represent are valuable stewards of the land. They treat their workers with respect and dignity and they provide a priceless community service – feeding humanity and growing plants that help purify our environment. Human life is dependent upon a robust and healthy food supply, for which we should all be looking to our local farmers to provide. Growing non-edible plants is equally important, as plants sequester carbon and help build climate resilience. San Diego County agriculture is home to around 3 million fruit trees, bushes and vines, each of which pulls excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and sequesters it in plant matter and soil. Your local farming community is in dire need of public support, and it is my hope that collectively, we can acknowledge that our thousands of local farms serve as some of the most ethical, environmentally friendly and innovative growers in existence.
Q: What Makes San Diego Agriculture Unique?
A: San Diego County has over 5,000 farms and agriculture is the 5th largest contributor to our local economy. In 2018, San Diego County ranked 1st in the nation for largest number of USDA certified organic farms. San Diego County has more small farms than any County in the US and 68% of our farms are less than 9 acres in size. Our County ranks 2nd in the nation in number of farms with women as principal operators. We rank 19th in farm economies, among more than 3,000 counties nationwide. Our growers face a unique situation, in that we have a robust, impressive agricultural community located next to a dense urban environment, the City of San Diego – the 8th largest city in the nation. Our agricultural community is extremely innovative and they are regularly creating ways to maximize their production in a County with an extremely high cost of living and land, water scarcity issues and prolonged labor shortages. Innovative techniques range from high density plantings to maximize crop value; implementing cutting edge irrigation technology ensuring only the bare minimum watering requirements are applied; and offering scholarship programs to our workforce.
Q: What does the San Diego County Farm Bureau do?
A: The San Diego County Farm Bureau is a non-profit organization supported solely by more than 2,000 dues-paying members. There are 53 county Farm Bureaus in California. Established in 1914, the San Diego County Farm Bureau serves the needs of the San Diego agriculture community. San Diego County Farm Bureau is the leading advocate for the farm community and works with elected officials, government agencies, educators, the public, and the media. We exist for the purpose of serving the needs of the farm community with informed, timely information and services. San Diego County Farm Bureau is the best association for San Diego farmers because we educate growers and the public about our fast-evolving industry, communicate the value of local agriculture, and represent farming business and regulatory needs. Members take great pride in belonging to the Farm Bureau and I am proud to be a part of this group.